People in the tightly-knit neighborhoods were reeling from the losses, all happening in the first week of February the murder of a young woman, the car crash that took a husband and wife, the death of a 6-week-old baby.

In response to those events, a Community Healing and Hope Service was held at Bethany Evangelical Congregational Church Sunday night, sponsored by Tamaqua Area Faith Fellowship Network. The Rev. Kevin Roberts, George Taylor of TAFFN and Micah Gursky, president of Tamaqua borough council, worked together to organize the service.

"In my experience with people, when someone is suffering and they pass away, it can be almost a relief, because we don't want it to continue," Roberts said before the service. "But when something happens suddenly, there's no time to prepare, and I thought we needed to have a special service."

Citizens who attended said that the local tragedies touched everyone in the small community.

"I live next door to the house where the baby died, and I knew the woman who was murdered," said Leona Rega of Tamaqua. "It's been a terrible time of loss for so many."

Roberts is no stranger to tragedy. One morning 23 years ago, his wife woke up with a severe headache. She had a brain tumor, and passed away three weeks later. At that time, their children were 4, 5, 7 and 9 years old.

"I was not a pastor, and I was not living particularly close to God," Roberts said during the service. "I could either shake my fist at God, or fall helplessly into his arms."

Roberts chose to trust in God. Whether the tragic event makes the national or local news, the question is always the same, he said.

"There are some events in human history forever engraved in our minds and we can recall where we were and what we were doing," Roberts said, using the Kennedy assassination and the 9-11 terrorists attacks as examples. "One of the questions asked is, where was God?"

Roberts said the Community Healing and Hope Service was a start towards answering that question.

"The answer is that when these things happen, we are never alone," Roberts said. "We can draw near to God, a wellspring of comfort and strength."

"He was there in the loneliest moments of my life," he added. "I chose to trust Him even when it made no sense at all."

"Only He can heal the brokenness," Roberts added. "Where was God? The same place He always was, He was right there."

The service included hymns, a Scripture reading (Psalm 46) and responsive readings. After the service, Gursky said that people can support each other as the community recovers.

"We've had a tough couple of weeks with tragic deaths," Gursky said. "We're having a rough spell but we can get through it together."

To view the service, go to