AURORA, Colo.--Some worshipers held their hands up to heaven. Others wiped away tears. Together, the overflow crowd in the hundreds at Colorado Community Church sang with a greater purpose than most Sundays.
"When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say, blessed be the name of the Lord," they belted out in unison.
Sunday's service was the first since a gunman opened fire at a movie theater not far from the church. Seventy people were killed or injured in the rampage. Among the 12 killed was Gordon Cowden, who attended Colorado Community Church.
[COMPLETE COVERAGE: Colorado theater shooting]
Cowden, 51, had taken his two teenagers to see the midnight premiere of "Dark Knight Rises," the latest film in the Batman franchise. His children escaped the shooting spree without injury.
"Loving father, outdoorsman, and small business owner, Cowden was a true Texas gentleman that loved life and his family," his family said in a statement. "A quick-witted world traveler with a keen sense of humor, he will be remembered for his devotion to his children and for always trying his best to do the right thing, no matter the obstacle."
Cowden (Family photo)
Colorado Community Church will host Cowden's funeral later this week.
"When it appears that there's no hope and no peace … we come to you," prayed song leader Chris Lang.
Pastor Robert Gelinas started Sunday's service by asking how many in attendance were personally impacted by the tragedy. More than a dozen hands went up. In the aisles and pews, fellow worshipers huddled around those suffering the most.
"As we put our hands on their shoulders, let the spirit draw near and be closer to them than they ever imagined," he said above loud sobs.
Gelinas had another request, which he admitted was "not going to be easy." He asked his flock to pray for the alleged gunman, James Holmes, and his family.
"Only God is the righteous judge," he said. "Only God knows how to blend justice and mercy and grace in perfect balance.
"We lift this man up before God, and say, 'God, do what you need to do in this situation.'"
A few parishioners responded by quietly uttering "yes" and "amen."