Blacksburg Baptist Church, located across the street from Virginia Tech, planned to hold an evening prayer vigil and service of remembrance to honor more than 30 victims killed in Monday’s massacre.
“At times like these it is important that the family of God come together in a time of prayer and supplication,” said an e-mail to church members and quoted in a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship press release. “Please continue to keep the students, families, ministers and police personnel in your prayers.”
Churches across the country were doing the same. First Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., opened its sanctuary Tuesday and Wednesday for people to come and pray.
“Everybody needs a sacred space during a time of real tragedy,” First Baptist Pastor Bill Shiell told CBS affiliate WVLT. “Obviously we can pray anywhere, and God will listen to us wherever we are.”
The grief was especially poignant for churches receiving word that members of their flock were among the dead.
Members of Restoration Church, Phoebus Baptist in Hampton, Va., gathered throughout the night Monday to pray for a miracle–that 20-year-old Lauren McCain, who had not been heard from since the attacks, might have survived. But by mid-afternoon Tuesday, her pastor got the word she was a victim.
McCain, a freshman in international studies, was born in Oklahoma and considered it her home. Since her father’s job is in the Navy, they moved around a lot. She was home-schooled, and worked at a department store for about a year to save money to attend Virginia Tech.
McCain and her family were active at the church in Virginia. On her MySpace page, the Hampton Daily Press reported, she listed Jesus Christ as “the love of my life.”
“I don’t have to argue religion, philosophy or historical evidence,” she wrote, “because I KNOW him.”
Jarrett Lane, 22, of Narrows, Va., was a member of FirstBaptistChurch in the town of about 2,000 residents. He was valedictorian of the class of 2003 at NarrowsHigh School. He lettered in four sports, participated in academic competitions and played trombone in the band.
A civil engineering major, Lane was already taking graduate-level classes. He was in a graduate hydrology class when he was killed. He had planned to attend the University of Florida’s graduate school, where he received a full-ride scholarship and graduate assistantship.
“Jarrett was a genuinely nice guy,” a friend wrote in an e-mail message to the Charleston Daily Mail. “He never had a bad thing to say about anyone. He was kind, fun-loving and always making people smile and laugh. He had the type of personality that made people instantly consider him a friend. Jarrett was the type of guy that you instantly liked.”
Nicole Regina White, 20, a junior majoring in international studies, was a lifeguard at the YMCA who taught Sunday school at Nansemond River Baptist Church in Suffolk, Va., where she and her parents were members. She was described as a strawberry blonde with a sparkling smile who loved life.
“When you talk to a parent who’s just lost a child over something as violent or tragic as this, you just don’t know how you will be to comfort them,” her pastor, Mark Becton, who spoke with Hill’s mother Tuesday morning, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “But the first words out of her mouth were, ‘We want all the glory to go to God, because that’s the way Rachael would have wanted it.'”
Twenty-five-year-old Brian Bluhm was active in Baptist Collegiate Ministries at Virginia Tech as an undergrad, but wasn’t around as much after entering graduate school. He attended Northstar Church, a tight-knit congregation with several members from the university community.
“Brian was a Christian, and first and foremost that’s what he would want to be remembered as,” a friend and former roommate told the Associated Press.
Nansemond River, Restoration Church and Grove Avenue are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia. First Baptist Church in Narrows and Northstar Church belong to the Baptist General Association of Virginia.
Bluhm grew up in Iowa and in a suburb of Detroit. He moved away from Michigan when he was 7 and went to high school in Louisville, Ky., but was hooked for life as a Detroit Tigers fan. He contributed regularly to on-line message boards discussing the Tigers. He reportedly posted to one site in particular, Motownsports.com, nearly 35,000 times over the past five years.
His favorite Tiger, center fielder Curtis Granderson, made Bluhm No. 1 friend on his blog.
“I never met Brian in person, but he was an important part of my life over the past several years,” wrote a Tiger fan from Massachusetts. “The same sentiment is being expressed by hundreds of friends on the blogs and message boards which make up our community. Our thoughts are with his family today.”
Bluhm considered Blacksburg his home, and he was an avid fan of Hokies sports. He had finished writing his thesis and had a job lined up in Baltimore.
Last week he found an apartment in Baltimore and got to see a game between the Orioles and his beloved Tigers at Camden Yards. That left Bluhm’s chat-room friends with the happy thought that he was on hand for Craig Monroe’s 12th-inning grand slam to give Detroit a 4-1 win.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.