(Seattle Times) - A New Mexico church service was set to start when the mailbox exploded near the office entrance.
Unshaken in faith, the congregation of Calvary Baptist in Las Cruces headed to the parking lot, set up folding chairs and listened as the pastor drew from the story of David and Goliath.
The explosion that sent the mailbox flying 100 feet over a woman’s head was the first of two om Sunday that caused minor damage to two churches in Las Cruces — the second-largest city in New Mexico near the border of Mexico and Texas.
No one was injured in the blasts at Calvary Baptist and Holy Cross Roman Catholic, but authorities said the explosive devices could have caused serious injuries if anyone had been nearby.
No arrests have been made.
Calvary Baptist Pastor Scott Rodgers said he had spent three days preparing his sermon for Sunday but somehow sensed Saturday that he needed to change course. He searched the scriptures and was led to the story of David and Goliath.
“What I saw there is that when in the midst of difficult situations, we need to, rather than look at the size of our problem, we need to look at the size of our God,” he said. “It provided a great deal of comfort.”
Calvary Baptist reopened Monday. No one answered the phone at Holy Cross, where an explosion in a trash can caused damage to a glass entryway.
Authorities have declined to provide specifics on the explosives that went off about 20 minutes apart at the two churches.
Calvary Baptist sits at the corner off a major street about a mile from New Mexico State University, while Holy Cross is tucked in a residential neighborhood less than four miles away.
Monsignor John Anderson was blessing bread and wine for Communion at Holy Cross when the trash can exploded.
Arriving police officers evacuated the church and blocked off surrounding buildings while bomb-sniffing dogs searched the church property.
“I was right in the middle of saying the words ‘Take and eat, this is my body,’ and there was a pow! I mean, I knew it had to be more than a gunshot,” Anderson told the Las Cruces Sun-News (http://bit.ly/1ME7PEp). “I didn’t know if it was a shotgun blast, I didn’t know what. But it was very loud, and I just kept on saying the words.”
Authorities are working to determine what materials were used and whether the blasts were related.
“It doesn’t appear to be coincidental because of the timing, but you never know,” Las Cruces police spokesman Danny Trujillo said.
FBI spokesman Frank Fisher said investigators will look into any possible links between the blasts and the June fatal shooting of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina. But he said there was no immediate indication of a connection.
The FBI established a hotline, 1-800-225-5324, for information on the blasts.
“Somebody out there knows something, and we want them to call us,” Fisher said. “These were strong devices.”
Police advised other churches in the city to look out for anything suspicious and let police inspect anything found.
Gov. Susana Martinez, who was a prosecutor in Las Cruces before becoming governor, told residents Sunday to keep attending houses of worship and promised that the “coward” will be caught.
She told reporters that if the intention was to bring fear to those who worship, it was a failed effort.
Rodgers said members of the church ministry team are being made available for anyone who needs prayer, something he’s hopeful will help bring peace.
“We’re all just incredibly grateful that God protected us, there was not a single injury,” he said. “If anything, it has increased our faith in the Lord.”