Church members throughout Waco and its surrounding communities bowed their heads in prayer Sunday for those involved in the standoff at Mount Carmel.

“Dear Father, there are times when we don’t understand why things happen,” said Kent Starr, chairman of the deacons at Waco’s First Baptist Church.

“We do realize that when they do, we must look to You in our faith. This last week this has happened in Waco,” Starr said. “Our true prayer is with the families of the slain officers and with those who are injured.”

Starr also prayed for God to be with the Davidians and their families and for all involved to work toward a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Before Starr’s prayer, interim pastor Winfred Moore read a letter sent by Mayor Bob Sheehy to all Waco churches asking them to pray for a quick resolution to the situation at the compound.

At the Seventh-day Adventist’s service in Waco, guest speaker Bill Kilgore tried to ease concerns.

“What we have to fear is not what man will see, but what Jesus will see in our hearts,” he said.

The Branch Davidians broke from the Seventh-day Adventist church about 60 years ago. The Seventh-day Adventists, a mainline denomination, say they are not connected to the Branch Davidians.

Other congregations listened to sermons about the siege, which began Feb. 28 when Branch Davidians leader Vernon Howell and his followers clashed with federal agents trying to serve a warrant for illegal firearms at Mount Carmel, 10 miles east of Waco.

At Central Christian Church, pastor Jerry Deffenbaugh tried to explain to his congregation why the tragedy happened.

“During the last week, we have learned about some strange things that religious people have done near our community of Waco,” Deffenbaugh said. “We might even be asking ourselves the question, ‘How can it happen?’”

Deffenbaugh went on to explain that the Davidians are a group of people that are independent with a different perspective on the Bible.

“When congregations or religious groups wave the flag of being independent, they often end up doing crazy things,” he said. “If you are not accountable to a larger body or fellowship, then perversion can easily set in.”

Deffenbaugh said the group was being led by a self-appointed Biblical scholar with no academic Biblical training.

“If you can talk fast, have a good personality and know how to manipulate people, then you can become a Jim Jones or a Vernon Howell.”

Some congregations also took brief moments of silence to remember those involved at Mount Carmel, while others held vigils Sunday night.

Read the Tribune-Herald's 7-part investigative series on the inner workings of the Branch Davidians. Hours after Part 2 appeared in print, the ATF raided the group's compound.

Read the Tribune-Herald’s account of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, 1993. Four ATF agents and six in the compound were killed in the gunfight.

Read the daily news accounts of the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Elk, which began Feb. 28 and lasted until April.

April 19 and beyond: FBI agents began inserting canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in the early morning hours. By noon, it was on fire.

Federal officials left the compound site in late May 1993. As identifications of bodies continued, questions about the survivors, the compound and the cult itself began to emerge.

As the world began to take a critical look back at the events and legal proceedings continue, the ATF's bombshell report forces a shakeup at the top after the raid gone "tragically wrong."

In 1994, the surviving Davidians went on trial in San Antonio. Over six weeks, more than 140 witnesses testified, with the verdict coming just two days prior to the anniversary of the ATF raid.

The Rodenville shootout and the 1988 trial, the end of the world in 1959 and more stories from deep in the Trib archives.