By Stan Friedman
CHICAGO, IL (May 22, 2013) – Evangelical Covenant Church pastors in small communities on opposite ends of the country have been ministering to the families of children whose deaths have been reported in the national news.
Jack and Becca Dowling, interim pastors at the Glenburn Covenant Church, have been ministering to the family of 15-year-old Nichole Cable, who went missing from her Glenburn, Maine, home on May 12. Her body was found in a nearby town around 9:30 p.m. Monday night.
Jeff Mitchell, pastor of Good Samaritan Community Covenant Church in Valley Springs, California, gave the eulogy during a private funeral service for eight-year-old Leila Fowler, who was stabbed to death, allegedly by her 12-year-old brother.
Two vigils had been held at the Glenburn church for Cable last weekend before she was found. About two dozen individuals attended the first vigil, which was arranged in a matter of hours. More than 100 individuals attended the service held Sunday night following a search conducted by 500 people that included law-enforcement and community members.
The town of 4,000 people is reeling from the death of Cable. A 20-year-old man has been in charged in her murder – the two may have become connected through social media.
The Dowlings were with the family as police held the press conference announcing the arrest. The family had been notified earlier in the day. “It was surreal,” watching the press conference, said Jack Dowling.
The family had not attended the Glenburn church, but responded to the Dowlings’ offer of assistance. The family attended the Saturday night vigil service.
The family of Leila Fowler had not attended any church either, but connected with Mitchell through “people who knew people. I think it was just that I’ve been here 18 years and know a lot of the community,” he said.
Leila had attended children’s ministry activities on several occasions.
Fowler was killed on April 27. Her brother told Valley Springs authorities that he saw a tall intruder with grey hair running from the home before finding his sister. The brother was arrested on May 10 and since has been charged with second-degree murder in juvenile court.
Local clergy led a community vigil several days after the killing. Several hundred people from the town of 4,000 people attended, including many who do not regularly attend church services, Mitchell said. The number of people at church services also increased in the week after the crime.
“I think people just need someplace to turn. They’re wondering, ‘What are we going to do now?’ ”
When Mitchell addressed the congregation, he quoted from an editorial written by Covenant Companion Features Editor Cathy Norman Peterson in the magazine’s most recent issue:
“Jesus alive within us means our hearts can grieve with a broken world. It means we can embrace the terrible effects of sin and shame with compassion and redeeming grace. Because he lives, we can trust in God who is good, even though the worst happens. And we can cling to hope that shines in the darkness – together with love for all those around us who have lost their way.”
Mitchell said he hopes to connect with the family again. Since the arrest, they have gone into seclusion away from their house – they cannot return there because the house remains cordoned off as a crime scene.
Because they have stayed away, contacting the family has been difficult, Mitchell said. “I’ve been waiting for them to reach out to me,” he added. “I’ll try to contact them in the next couple of days.”
Good Samaritan also continues to minister to the community. “At our church leadership team meeting last night, we learned that the morale among teachers at the school is very low, so the team is going to serve an appreciation lunch to the administration, teachers, and staff at Jenny Lind School in support of their great work,” Mitchell said this morning.