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NEWTOWN, Conn. — Dealing with the pain of the school shooting that claimed 28 lives will take faith, support, and joyous Christmas celebrations, church leaders said at the first Sunday services held since the tragedy.
At houses of worship around town, people gathered in pews, crying, kneeling, and hugging each other through services that focused on remembering the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, uniting the community, celebrating the meaning of Christmas and preventing similar disasters.
Yet even this beleaguered town's day of worship provided a moment of fear when congregants at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church fled the building, saying they were told there was a bomb threat. Police with guns drawn surrounded the church. No injuries were reported, but the church canceled all events for the day.
Earlier in the day, services at St. Rose, much like other places of worship in the area, were focused on the tragedy.
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"We've been caught up in conflict and violence for so long." —Congolese pastor
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“Any church whose members are senior citizens and there’s no youth coming behind, they’re going to die out,” Lee said in a roundtable discussion with reporters.
“Now that goes for synagogues, mosques, temples too — any institution,” Lee continued. “You got to always try to have that infusion of youth. They might not be as smart but youth has energy.”
The number of congregations that host worship services at more than one physical location has grown to more than 5,000 in the last decade, according to a new report.
Researchers say these "multisite" churches, which may share worshippers across town or many miles apart, are growing at a much larger pace than traditional megachurches.
Without the burden of additional expensive buildings, congregations find they grow faster in new places, said Warren Bird, research director of Leadership Network, who announced his conclusions on Tuesday.
“It’s a combination of both evangelism and saying, `People may not come to this particular building. How can we take where we are to where they are?'” he told Religion News Service.
After the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colo., and a deadly shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., Americans are divided on gun control, and within certain religious groups, attitudes are far from ambivalent.
But on the question of guns in churches, there is actual consensus: A strong majority of Americans don’t want them in the pews, according to a new poll released Wednesday (Aug. 15) by the Public Religion Research Institute conducted in partnership with Religion News Service.
"Although the issue of gun control tends to divide Americans by party, gender, region and race, there is broad agreement among the public that there are some places where concealed weapons should be off limits," said Daniel Cox, PRRI’s research director.