Marc Piscotty for NBC News
Pastor Jeff Noble addresses the congregation of New Life Community Church in Aurora, Colo., two days after the community was rocked by senseless slaughter.
Even as some ministers and theologians tried to make sense of Friday's deadly attack in Aurora, Colo., Pastor Jeff Noble of Aurora's New Life Community Church told his congregation that it's not possible to understand how God could allow such a tragedy to happen.
“When our world goes periodically crazy, a flood of questions can come into our minds,” Noble said during his Sunday morning sermon. “The question we all probably struggle with: Why did God allow this? My response is: I don’t know."
Noble's church is one of many houses of worship to open their doors to the grieving community of Aurora since Friday's deadly attack.
A five-minute drive from the movie theater, the church, like many institutions in Aurora, was touched by the violence: a former student in their youth ministry lost his father, Weston Cowden, and a member of the nearby Buckley Air Force base said an airwoman in his unit was one of the 58 injured.
In the days since the attack, the church has helped provide meals to the military base, offered counseling services, and shared information on those affected by the shootings.
Noble told the congregation that he started “bawling like a baby” as he drove past the scene of the theater massacre on Friday, “because I think it was then that it hit me. This wasn’t some TV show. This wasn’t some event that happened 1,000 miles away,” he said. “It happened in our community.”
Marc Piscotty for NBC News
Scott Shreffler, 18, of Aurora, Colo., is overcome with emotion during the Sunday morning service at New Life Community Church.
During the service, members of the church got up to say prayers for loved ones and even those they don't know.
“It’s not only okay but it’s good to express your honest feelings to God and to others about how you’re feeling … about this situation,” Noble told the few hundred people in attendance.
He urged members of the church to be a comfort to others. He said, too, that the attack was a reminder that everyone’s days were numbered and it was important, however unpleasant, to think about that.
After the service, during which people shed tears, hugged one another and clenched their hands in prayer, one man said he couldn't believe he could ever feel fearful in a place like Aurora.
“I’m just so hurt. I just can’t believe that somebody would do this,” said Daniel Sharp of the 310th Unit Reservist at nearby Buckley. “I would have never imagined living in fear here ... fear is unfortunately right now on every street corner it seems like. It’s really not, but in our minds, because of this event.”
Another churchgoer, 18-year-old Scott Shreffler, said he took encouragement from the lyrics of a song that was sung during the service: “greater things have yet to come and greater things are still to be done in this city.”
“This summer has been very tough on Colorado,” he said, adding that he felt the presence of God while he was singing, telling him that “it's going to be alright and good things are going to come out of this.”
When asked by a reporter what he told people, such as those directly affected by the tragedy, to help them through this difficult time, Noble, the minister, said “the most important thing right now is just to listen, hug and pray.”
“It's not anywhere near the time to start coming in and being a theologian and giving theological … arguments on different things,” Noble said.
“Unfortunately, the storms come to every person, whether they’re great followers of God or never darkened the door of a church … the storms of life happen to all of us.”
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