Episcopalian churches in the north central area of the diocese of Texas, with two of the dead astronauts and many staff of the space program among parishioners, were directly affected by the February Columbia shuttle tragedy.
The Johnson Space Center in Houston is within the diocesan boundaries.
“If I’d been born in space I would desire to visit the beautiful Earth more than I ever yearned to visit space. It’s a wonderful planet,” wrote Capt. David Brown to his parents in the last e-mail they received from him.
Capt. Brown was raised Episcopalian and served as an acolyte at his Arlington, Va., parish. His father is now an active member of Trinity Episcopal Church in Washington, Va. Capt. Brown was a member of an Episcopal church near his home in Texas.
One of the Columbia astronauts’ children attended school at St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal School in Nassau Bay, south of Houston.
“Mission Specialist Laurel Clark’s eight-year-old son is a second grader at the school,” said Rev. John Musgrave, parish rector. “The congregation is deeply affected by the loss of his mother.”
Mr. Musgrave said more than 300 people attended a prayer vigil on the evening of the tragedy. Numerous NASA employees and their families are parishioners at St. Thomas, including many who knew the Columbia crew personally.
Rev. Gary Hill, rector of Christ Church in Nacogdoches, Tex., was on his way to a vestry retreat when he saw debris from the doomed shuttle on the road.
His church reported an increase in Sunday’s attendance.
Rev. Hugh Bell, rector of St. Cyprian’s in Lufkin, said that his Sunday service included a dedicated eucharist for the astronauts and their families. The Collect for Burial was read from the Book of Common Prayer, along with the names of the astronauts.