Crematory victims gather in church for comfort, answers

NOBLE, Ga. (BP)--If there's just one thing Charles Cornwell wants his congregation to remember about the dark cloud hanging over their community, it's this -- "God's love shines brightest when situations seem to be the darkest."

Cornwell spent his Feb. 24 sermon reassuring his congregation at Center Point Church that God's love can overcome any situation, especially in times like these when the world seems to be turned upside down. And he called on his congregation to continue to pray for Ray Brent Marsh and his family, owners of Tri-State Crematory, as well as those affected by the crime.

"This morning I came to realize that the cloud of darkness that has loomed over our community is growing darker each day. But as I came to grips with that, I also realized that the light that shines through the darkness is growing brighter each day.

"God could have stopped Sept. 11, but he didn't. He could have stopped February 15, but he didn't. We're not going to get over this in a month, and probably not in our lifetime. But I can tell you one thing, and that is that our faith is going to be strengthened and Christ is going to be glorified.

"I'll be honest with you," he said as he alluded to the discovery of more than 300 bodies in the woods adjoining his church -- "Several times this week I've felt the pressure so great that I thought my heart would literally stop. That's when I would clutch the steering wheel of my car and say 'God, I can't handle this any more.'

"But at that point of surrender I felt God's presence and the burden was lifted. The lesson that I have learned again this week is that in times like these, God's love can be so real you can almost touch it."

Cornwell urged his congregation to search out that love and take comfort in it because God is a god of comfort.

"In our crises we may be disappointed and confused with the action of our neighbors, but when we walk back in the Bible to Genesis 1:1 where Moses recorded 'In the beginning, God...' and then walk through the centuries from the Old into the New Testament, we see story after story of people who were living through crises just like we are.

"But how wonderful to know that the Bible shows us that in every crisis, God was there, nurturing, healing, and reminding those who were suffering of His abundant love."

"How wonderful to know that out of 30,000 promises, God has never broken one of them.

"It's not for me to understand what is happening outside in that field or why it happened, but it us up to me -- and it is up to us -- to remind people of God's love. Isn't it wonderful to know that we have been entrusted to offer the world God's most powerful message of 'I love you' and that it is found only in Jesus Christ."

In summing up the events of the past week, Cornwell said he condensed hours of newscasts and pages of magazine and newspaper accounts into one simple, concise, non-judgmental statement -- "Sin blinds us and makes us do dumb things."

A few miles away at Oakwood Baptist Church in Chickamauga, pastor Darrell Henry called his congregation to a time of special prayer for the state troopers, emergency medical technicians, deputies, and other support workers who are members of the church and are shouldering the burden on a daily basis.

Henry asked Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson and his family, who are members of the congregation, to come to the front of the church where individuals laid hands on them in a time of special prayer.

Standing outside the sanctuary in the foyer, Larry Houston, lead greeter, echoed the sentiments of many in the county.

"I grew up in the funeral business and began working in a funeral home as a teenager, but I still don't understand how something like this can happen. From a strictly secular perspective we know that the human body is worth only about 78 cents based on its mineral content, but it's worth the world to the grieving family.

"The body of a deceased individual should always be treated with respect and dignity."


(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: SHARING THOUGHTS.

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