Tragedy struck the small community of Alger, Wash., in September when a man randomly shot and killed six people, including a deputy sheriff, and injured four others.
“One reason it’s so staggering to people is that it’s so random, so senseless, and it plays on people’s fears,” said Rev. Richard De Ruiter, pastor of Alger Community Christian Reformed Church, the only church in town. “How do you defend yourself against something like this?”
De Ruiter, also a volunteer fire fighter, was present at one crime scene. He spent time with the gunman’s mother, who regularly attends his church. “How do you help people understand this? All I know is there is evil in the world and God is bigger,” he said.
The Alger congregation held a candlelight vigil, which more than 200 people attended. The church acknowledged each victim who died with a moment of silence and ringing of the bell.
People laid hands on Sheriff Richard Grimstead, law enforcement officers, and others as they prayed for each other.
“It was a very moving experience, particularly for our staff that attended,” said Grimstead. “In a time of tragedy, people appreciate people more and pull together.”
The church will continue to be a source of comfort and hope with open doors for those who seek prayer. “The community needs to care for each other. We are going to be with them,” said De Ruiter.