A UMNS picture

Many of the wounded from the Nov. 5 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, were treated at the Carl N. Darnall Army Medical Center on post.

“We are all grieving.”

– Skip Blancett

First United Methodist Church in Killeen, Texas, immediately opened its chapels for prayer after a gunman opened fire at nearby Fort Hood Nov. 5, killing more than a dozen people.

The church, where much of the congregation is affiliated with the military, was staying open for prayer the next day, and will host a community worship service on Sunday.

“When a tragedy like this occurs, the whole family comes together. By that, I mean the entire military community,” said the Rev. E.F. “Skip” Blancett, church pastor. “A lot of conversation is going on in expression of grief and sympathy.”

Anyone connected with or living in the vicinity of a military base like Fort Hood becomes part of that family, he added. “An attack on any member of the family is an attack on all of us. We are all grieving.”

Maj.Nadal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, has been identified by authorities as the suspect accused of opening fire on a military processing center, killing 13 and wounding 30 others.

Throughout the region, United Methodists were offering prayers and counseling and raising funds in the aftermath of the shooting at the military post, home to some 70,000 soldiers and their families.

“Our sense today is one of being stunned and shocked,” said the Rev. Stephen Schmidt, pastor of Grace United Methodist Church, a congregation of more than 900 members in nearby Copperas Cove.

Grace, whose membership is approximately one-third military personnel, one-third retired military and one-third business people and educators from the area, scheduled a prayer service for Nov. 6.

Schmidt, his associate pastor, and other local pastors “have all made ourselves available for counseling.” He expects to set up support groups with local mental health professionals.

The 1,900-member First United Methodist Church in Killeen is organizing a community fund to assist families at the base. The congregation is assembling “care baskets” for the families of the victims with notes saying “Someone at First United Methodist Church cares for you.”

“By the moment, our net expands,” said Blancett, who was a Navy chaplain for 22 years. “This is the most unusual church you ever will see, with a heart as big as Texas.”