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Explosion rocks Texas church: After a deadly blast at a fertilizer plant owned by a church elder, West Church of Christ members rely on faith, prayer and fellow Christians (reporting from West, Texas). Page 1 lead.

WEST, Texas — The auditorium lights flickered.

The glass doors flew open.

West Church of Christ minister Ernie Albrecht was sharing Wednesday night devotional thoughts — focused on Ezekiel and the need for Christians to stand up and be strong in their faith — when a loud boom rocked the pews.

“For a moment, I thought, ‘Man, Jesus is coming!’” Albrecht said later. “It was a scary moment because it was like, ‘This may be it.’”

Albrecht finished his remarks, and deacon Shorty Harkins — who brushed off the noise as thunder — stood to lead the invitation song, “There Is Power in the Blood.”

Harkins had asked elder Donald Adair, an 83-year-old farmer and owner of the West Fertilizer Co., to say the closing prayer.

But in the dark auditorium, Harkins did not realize Adair had received a phone call a few minutes earlier and quickly left. Unknown to the congregation, Adair had learned that the fertilizer plant had caught fire.

“Oh, no!” a few members had heard Adair’s wife, Wanda, mutter on the way out.

Outside the church building, a giant plume of smoke filled the still-bright sky — the result of a massive explosion at Adair’s fertilizer plant that killed 15 people and wounded more than 200.

“It kind of looked like a mushroom cloud,” said Harkins, a longtime resident of this north-central Texas town of 2,800, known for its Czech culture and kolache pastry shops. “It was about a mile and a half over there to it.”

Boston Marathon bombings: Church of Christ minister pays tribute to slain MIT officer. Second Front.

Sin, snoring and sermons: What to say to the preacher. Inside Story.

This post highlights my stories in the June 2013 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

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