Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX


September 20, 2013

Church of Wells: The Elders speak

War of words pits church against the parents of an Arkansas woman


WELLS — Not The First Media Scrutiny

Church elders say they doubt they'll ever know if the voraciousness with which the local and national media have covered the Catherine Grove situation as a news story would have been less intense if  not for the May 2012 death of  a three-day baby girl whose parents were members of the church.

After the baby passed away, her parents waited 15 hours to call 911.

That incident also attracted national attention, even though an autopsy later determined the baby died of natural causes. Cherokee County Sheriff's Capt. John Raffield has said the investigation has not been concluded and is still ongoing.

The church elders declined to discuss the incident with the media at that time. To this day, they're still not sure it was the right decision.

Leaving readers to draw their own conclusions can backfire sometimes in a news story. But in fiction, it is certainly an effective dramatic tool. Edgar Allan Poe, for instance, does not describe the actual death of the poor soul forever bricked into a room at the end of the horrifying “Cask of Amontillado.” There is no description of the Blair Witch ever in that respective project movie of roughly the same name.

Was refusal of the Church of Wells to comment about the baby a disservice to readers and viewers?

“I'm really not sure,” answered  elder Sean Morris. “Our main concern at the time was that it might be exploited — in some ways abused — and add pain to an already tragic situation.”

After the child died, the church issued the following statement:

“We desire the sermon preached at the memorial service of Faith Shalom Pursley to suffice as a response to the many reports given (public and private). This sermon was preached to the purpose to answer the questions surrounding the the death of Faith, and various beliefs of the church which have been deemed (by the general public) everything but moderate. This is our humble stance upon these matters.”

Sean Morris declined to discuss the baby's death any further.

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