By Jessica Connor
COLUMBIA—An accidental drowning has shaken one local church to the core, and members are looking to God to help them pick up the pieces.
Christopher Riddle, 18, drowned Aug. 19 during Trenholm Road United Methodist Church s annual youth back-to-school event on Lake Murray.
We knew immediately that he had gone under and not come back up, and immediately our folks started searching and called 911, said the Rev. Wayne Horne, senior pastor of the church. It was an accident. And for us as a church family, it was a tragedy.
Riddle and 26 other teens had gathered with 13 adults that Sunday for the yearly gathering, which Horne said was closely supervised and a safe tradition for the active youth group.
Now, the church is doing its best to take comfort from prayer and the promise of God s eternal Kingdom.
This just reminds all of us how fragile life is. We can do what we feel is best, but we can t control everything, Horne said. God doesn t cause things like this to happen, but we ask God to guide and comfort us. We are a family, a community of faith, and we re walking through this together. We re ministering to his family, the counselors, as well as the youth and their families.
We draw strength from God and from each other.
Church leaders are asking for fervent prayer for Riddle s family and the youth of the church, who Horne said will never be the same.
Trenholm Road UMC has been reaching out to youth and adults affected by the accident and the loss of their beloved friend. A meeting was held at the church in the days following the accident; Riddle s mother attended.
Youth and others have been encouraged to ask questions, express their grief and write messages to the family.
Riddle is remembered as a quiet, gentle, sweet and kind young man who took great joy in Trenholm Road s United Methodist Youth Fellowship.
Christopher is eternally with the Lord, but we re left with the grief and confusion and all the emotions that go along with such a tragic loss, Horne said. We re focusing on God s healing presence.
Across the state, United Methodist clergy and churches have been reaching out to Trenholm Road in solidarity and connectionalism, expressing support and offering prayer and love.
Horne said all of this the support has meant a lot to the congregation, as well as himself personally.