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As a Texas church reeled from a deadly shooting, another congregation stepped in to help

As First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, faced a tragedy, members of a nearby church quickly jumped in to help.

Pastor Paul Buford from neighboring River Oaks Church described to ABC News what happened when his congregation initially heard of the shooting.

>> Mass shooting at Texas church: Live updates

“We were in the middle of our church service down the road when we got phone calls from friends about this,” he said.

“We had some first responders in our church who immediately left and went down there. And then my church went to do what we do: We started praying for everybody and everything that was going on.”

>> Watch the interview here

According to Buford, it was important that the “professional people [could] deal with what they needed to deal with there.”

Buford’s congregation demonstrated the spirit of people jumping into action during a crisis.

“We’re all friends and family here, because this is a very small, close-knit community.”

>> Read more trending news

Twenty-six people were killed in the shooting. The suspected gunman was later identified as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley of New Braunfels, according to multiple news reports. Kelley died of a gunshot wound after fleeing the scene in a vehicle, according to the Washington Post.

Steve Harvey shares inspirational message about faith and God

Steve Harvey spent his Sunday reflecting on God.

>> Watch the clip here

The TV personality shared a moving post with fans on Facebook on Sunday and spoke candidly about his relationship with God and his faith.

>> Read more trending news

“If you honor God, God gives you grace and faith. Since you can’t buy it, since you can’t purchase grace, you can’t purchase faith, He gives it out to whoever He wants to have it,” Harvey said. “But you can do some things to get more of it.”

>> On Rare.us: The world fell in love with Claire after she sang a hit from 'The Little Mermaid,' and now she’s stolen Steve Harvey’s heart

He added: “Gratitude and honor. If you are grateful, He will give you more things to be grateful for. If you honor Him and give Him credit, you give Him the praise and the honor, He will do things for you that you can’t even explain. He will reveal stuff to you that you will never know. He’ll show you things your eyes can’t see. That’s the beauty of gratitude and honoring Him.”

President Trump says you'll be hearing 'Merry Christmas' a lot more this year

Declaring victory on the “war on Christmas” at Friday’s Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., President Trump said he’ll be saying “Merry Christmas” during his first holiday season as president.

>> Read more trending news

“We’re getting near that beautiful Christmas season that people don’t talk about anymore. They don’t use the word ‘Christmas’ because it’s not politically correct,” he said, explaining that politically correct culture has made it difficult to celebrate the holiday. “You go to department stores, and they’ll say ‘Happy New Year,’ or they’ll say other things, and it’ll be red -- they’ll have it painted -- but they don’t say -- Well, guess what? We’re saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”

The crowd at the Christian public policy conference went wild, cheering on the president as he went on to call for tax reform, calling the possibility a “Christmas gift.”

President Trump has frequently used the “war on Christmas” to fire up the evangelical Christian wing of his base, saying on the campaign trail that political correctness prohibits people from proudly celebrating Christian holidays such as Christmas.

“So, when I started 18 months ago, I told my first crowd in Wisconsin that we are going to come back here someday, and we are going to say Merry Christmas again,” he said at the time. “Merry Christmas. So, Merry Christmas everyone.”

Family finds Virgin Mary statue still standing after California wildfire destroys home

Families in one California neighborhood barely made it out alive before a raging wildfire destroyed everything.

>> PHOTOS: Northern California wildfires

Margaret Curzon took this video of what's left of her parents' house in Santa Rosa.

>> Click here to watch

They lived there for 26 years.

The only thing left standing when they returned was a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Her parents said they woke up Monday morning because their dog, Brady, was whimpering.

>> Read more trending news

They only had minutes to leave, but their neighbors were also trying to escape, so they couldn't get out quick and could feel their car getting hotter as the flames drew closer.

But her parents finally made it out.

>> On Boston25News.com: New technology giving first responders another tool to help during disasters

She said her father is a mailman, and he went to work Tuesday to try and get his life back to normal.

More than a dozen fires are still burning across northern California. 

Children dismissed from private school because parents have open marriage

Akia Brown released her self-published memoir in February. A few months later, she learned her decision to reveal her life in print would get her children dismissed from their school.

>> Read more trending news 

The book, “Beyond Love,” details Brown’s journey from a single parent in Detroit to her current life as a mother of six in Atlanta who said she is happy in an open marriage with her husband.

It took a few months for news of her book to travel to administrators at Mount Paran Christian School in Kennesaw, Georgia, where her daughter had been a student for two years and her son was set to begin pre-kindergarten this fall.

In late July, Brown received a call from two administrators at the school. Via speaker phone, they told her that her daughter would not be allowed to return and her son was being denied admission.

Mount Paran is a private Christian, nondenominational, college preparatory day school that serves students ages 3-12. Parents are required to sign a covenant agreement upon enrollment, school officials said. The admission policy states:

The applicant and his/her parents must express a belief of biblical teachings, and a willingness to follow them, as well as student and parent’s affirmation of faith. Parents and students must read and agree to support the Statement of Faith (p. 4-5 in parent/student handbook on MPCS website), commit to uphold Christian principles in their daily lives, and actively participate in a local church body. As a covenant Christian school, MPCS reserves the right to determine whether Mount Paran Christian School is an appropriate placement for the applicant and/or the family. MPCS reserves the right to deny acceptance, terminate, or suspend enrollment of students at the school’s discretion with non-disclosure of reasons.

In this case, the school did give a reason -- Brown and her husband’s open marriage -- but Brown wanted the opportunity to plead her case.

“They haven’t even read the book. I don’t know how they even found out about the book,” Brown said.

She said her daughter, a shy first-grader, was flourishing at Mount Paran and misses her friends. She and her husband had made sure their children were supported academically and socially, she said.

In the book, Brown describes her nontraditional life. Her husband, Brian Maurice Brown, was incarcerated for almost 10 years on drug charges. In 2012, he started BMB Records, which has hosted a roster of hip-hop artists including Charli Baltimore and Ray J.

According to a recent story in the Detroit News, the company has been under investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration since 2013. Brian Maurice Brown has not been charged with a drug-related crime.

Over the years, their relationship evolved from husband and wife to one between her, her husband and at least two other women, which they refer to as “wife-in-laws.” In the vein of urban nonfiction, Brown offers salacious details, but she contends the book is about unconditional love.

Brown said she was able to enroll her children in a new Christian school. She told the school administrators right upfront what happened and explained her views, an opportunity she said she never had at Mount Paran.

“Yes, (the book) discusses open marriage – or what others may consider an open marriage – but the real meaning and everything I have ever talked about is unconditional love and having a forgiving heart,” Brown said.

Greenleaf’s Keith David, Yolanda Adams to perform at Joseph Lowery party

Gospel artist Yolanda Adams and “Greenleaf” actor Keith David are set to perform at the 96th birthday celebration of civil rights veteran the Rev. Joseph Lowery on Oct. 4 at the Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State University.

The event, hosted by the Joseph and Evelyn Lowery Institute for Justice & Human Rights, will begin at 6 p.m. followed by the celebration at 7 p.m. It’s theme is “Grounded in History: Soaring Towards the Future.”

Among those being honored during the birthday fete are “Think Like A Man” producer, Will Packer; pastor and activist, the Rev. William Barber; and attorney Angela Rye.

Lowery is known as one of the deans of the U.S. civil rights movement, a minister and social activist. At 95, Lowery is still keenly interested in the social and political goings-on across the nation, especially rising racial divisiveness.

He recently endorsed Stacey Abrams in the race for Georgia governor and also Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell for mayor, both hotly contested elections.

Related:

As interest in civil right tourism grows, Atlanta holds a key spot

Civil rights icon backs Abrams in Georgia governor’s race

Adams is a five-time gospel Grammy winner and David, an Emmy winner, plays Bishop James Greenleaf on OWN’s popular series, “Greenleaf.”

The musical tribute, produced by Kenneth Green, will highlight milestones in Lowery’s lifelong commitment to the nonviolent fight for voting rights, economic equality and social justice. Nearly 100 of the Lowery Institute’s change agents will take part in the program. Change agents are college students trained at the Lowery Institute then assigned to elementary, middle and high schools to teach the principles of nonviolence coupled with conflict management and social and self-awareness.

Barber is pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church, Disciples of Christ in Goldsboro, N.C. and leader of the Forward Together Moral Movement that launched the Moral Monday protests.

Angela Rye will receive the Social Justice Award. The CNN political commentator and NPR analyst is the CEO of IMPACT Strategies, a nonprofit organization that seeks to encourage young professionals in economic empowerment, civic engagement, and political involvement.

Will Packer will recieve the Servant Leadership award, Will Packer. The Emmy-nominated producer’s most recent film, “Girls Trip”, is the first entirely black-led movie to make more than $130 million. Packer also served as executive producer of “Roots,” a remake of one of the most celebrated TV programs of all time.

The birthday celebration raises funds to support the work of the Lowery Institute, a nonprofit established to ensure the continuity of the advocacy of Lowery and his wife, the late Evelyn Gibson Lowery.

For tickets call 404-524-8406 or online at the Rialto or the Lowery Institute.

BYU is allowing Coca-Cola, caffeinated soda on campus and everyone is freaking out

On Thursday morning, Brigham Young University announced the university will offer caffeinated soft drinks – including Coca-Cola – on campus and fans couldn’t contain their excitement.

The BYU Twitter account posted the news along with a Q&A with BYU director of dining services Dean Wright on the decision to bring caffeinated soft drinks on the Provo, Utah, campus for the first time since the mid-1950s.

>> Read more trending news

BYU is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints and requires students to adhere to a strict honor code in line with the church’s beliefs. The honor code enforces a mandated dress code, personal grooming standards as well as abstinence from premarital sex, drugs and alcohol.

BYU is the largest religious university and third-largest private university in the United States.

>> Click here or scroll down for more

Percentage of white American Christians decreasing, report says

The percentage of white Christians in America is decreasing, according to a new report.

>> Read more trending news

The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) published the report Wednesday, with findings that U.S. residents who identify as white and Christian are less than half of the country’s population. 

The shift comes with increased immigration into the country and as more people reject organized religion altogether, The Associated Press reported.

Forty years ago, about eight in 10 Americans were white Christians. Now, only 43 percent of the population identifies as such. Still, 70 percent of the overall population identifies as Christian, according to the PRRI.

The survey, conducted from January 2016 to January 2017, collected information from more than 100,000 participants. It found that 25 percent of the population doesn’t identify with a faith group. 

>> Related: Religious groups unite to shelter Harvey survivors

Predominantly white Protestant denominations, such as Presbyterians and Lutherans, have seen drops in membership, and the number of white evangelicals has decreased, the survey found.

As the presence of Latino Catholics in the U.S. has increased, the percentage of white American Catholics has decreased; approximately 55 percent of American Catholics identify as white, compared with 87 percent 25 years ago. And some white Catholics are leaving the church.

The percentage of Americans who identify as white evangelicals has decreased too.

According to the survey, about 17 percent of Americans identify as white evangelical, compared with 23 percent 10 years ago.

In regard to political affiliation, the PRRI found that more than 33 percent of Republicans identify as white evangelicals and nearly 75 percent identify as white Christians.

Only 29 percent of those who identify as Democrats are white Christians. Forty percent of Democrats surveyed said they have no religious affiliation, according to the report.

Read more at The Associated Press.

Virgin Mary statue survives fire that destroyed home during Hurricane Harvey

A family says a statue of the Virgin Mary is all that remained after a fire destroyed their home during Hurricane Harvey, and that symbol is giving them hope.

>> Watch the news report here

>> Hurricane Harvey: How you can help

The Rojas family of Robstown, Texas, evacuated their homes on their family property before the Category 4 hurricane made landfall, and after seeing what happened to three of the family’s houses, they say they’re glad they left. They returned to charred remains where the houses once stood.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

>> On HotTopics.TV: Your heart will melt when you see what this little boy did for a baby Jesus statue out in the cold 

“The first thing I thought is we would have died in here if we would have stayed. We left, so we’re alive and I just wish this wouldn’t have happened,” homeowner Natali Rojas told KRIS.

>> 8 tips when donating to Hurricane Harvey recovery and relief efforts

Rojas said one of the only items that remained after the fires was a statue of the Virgin Mary. She said it’s a reminder to stay strong.

>> Harvey's aftermath: Houston perseveres through immense loss (live updates)

“Appreciate what you have, listen to the warnings, hug your children and thank God for today and yesterday, and pray for a better tomorrow,” Rojas said.

>> Read more trending news

The Rojas family set up a GoFundMe account to raise money to rebuild. If you would like to donate, click here.

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