In the wake of Sunday’s horrific shooting at a Southern Baptist church in rural Texas, researchers say people of faith cope better in the aftermath of a mass shooting.
A gunman shot and killed 26 worshippers, while wounding another 20 at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, about 40 miles southeast of San Antonio. Authorities said those killed ranged in age from 18 months to 77 years old, according to ABC News.
At the American Psychological Association’s convention last year, the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College revealed findings from the first in-depth empirical studies examining faith and mass shootings. Researchers apparently found that religious communities that rally together after a mass shooting make a measurable impact in the lives of survivors.
“Finding comfort in one’s faith and faith community is particularly important to helping mass shooting survivors hold onto hope amidst such horrible tragedies,” Jamie Aten, executive director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College, told Christianity Today. “Now is the time for First Baptist Church and surrounding churches to gather, pray, and lament in community.”
Researchers studied recovery efforts from mass shootings in Orlando, Dallas and Roseburg, Oregon over the past two years. The findings are still under review but already suggest churches and religious communities can help, whether or not the tragedy happens within their places of worship.
The research found that people who felt supported by their religious communities ultimately fared better in their recovery, experiencing fewer symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“These findings suggest that people in communities affected by mass shootings who identify as a person of faith or are open to faith would benefit from being encouraged to utilize their religious community as a source of social and religious support,” Aten told Christianity Today. “Helping to connect people for whom it is appropriate to support from their religious communities would appear to help buffer against common negative mass trauma reactions, placing them on a better trajectory for recovery.”
Churches, ministries and religious leaders have already started reaching out to families affected by Sunday’s deadly shooting.
“It impacts us all, as a family,” Lee Rios, pastor of Emerge Ministries near Sutherland Springs, told The Associated Press. “It causes us to stop what we’re doing, start to pray, and see how we can serve. This community is rallying around these folks, and we’re just trying to comfort and minister how we can.”
(H/T Christianity Today)