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Members of Oklahoma Bombing Figure’s Church Pray for Him, Victims

April 23, 1995

DEFORD, Mich. (AP) _ The rural church congregation that calls farmer James Nichols ``our brother″ was asked to pray Sunday for the man being held as a material witness in the Oklahoma City bombing.

Nichols, a 41-year-old man who was said to hold strong right-wing, anti-government views, was in federal custody Sunday in Detroit. His brother, Terry Nichols, 40, surrendered Friday in Herington, Kan., where he lives.

Authorities said their testimony is needed for the bombing investigation.

Pastor Stu Roy of Deford Community Church said Jim Nichols called him Friday, asking the congregation to pray for him. At the time, federal agents were searching Nichols’ farm in Decker, about five miles from Deford, a farming village of about 350 people, a grocery store and a pale-orange brick church.

Urging about 100 worshipers ``to reserve judgment until true judgment is given,″ Roy offered this prayer: ``Lord, I pray that you help our brother Jim. I pray, Father, that you give him wisdom. I pray that you give him strength at this time.″

Then, referring to President Clinton’s declaration of a national day of mourning for the victims, Roy said, ``I encourage each one of you to take part in the national day of mourning. This tragedy in Oklahoma City is truly that.″

Until about six months ago, Nichols and his son, Chase, 10, were regular churchgoers, Roy said.

Churchgoers described Nichols as friendly, likeable and opinionated, but not dangerous. Others in the area said Nichols is a tax protester who returned his Social Security card, renounced his U.S. citizenship and refused to carry a driver’s license.

Nichols did not believe in banks, the pastor recalled: ``He pointed to his silo, saying, `That’s it there.‴

Also Sunday, in Pendleton, N.Y., the hometown of bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh, a Roman Catholic priest, the Rev. Paul Belzer, solicited prayers for the McVeigh family as well as the victims during a Mass at the Good Shepherd Church. McVeigh, 27, lived in Pendleton until age 18.

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