Allen church hosts prayer vigil after 8 killed during outlet mall shooting

Cottonwood Creek Senior Pastor John Mark Caton prays during a vigil held at the church following a mass shooting at an Allen outlet mall that left eight victims dead and at least seven others wounded on Saturday.

ALLEN—Mayor-elect Baine Brooks stood at the pulpit at Cottonwood Creek Church, where he is a member and sings on the worship team, and addressed the hundreds of people who gathered for a prayer vigil on Sunday evening (May 7).

As he walked onto the stage, Brooks folded up a piece of paper on which he had prepared his remarks, put it in his breast pocket, and said, “I think I’m going to put my script up and I’m just going to speak from the heart.”

A day earlier and just a couple of miles from the church, a 33-year-old man parked his car outside the Allen Premium Outlets, at the time bustling with Saturday afternoon shoppers, and opened fire. Eight people—including children—were killed and at least seven others were wounded. The gunman was shot and killed by a police officer at the mall on an unrelated call.

“Jesus, just please take the wheel,” Brooks said. “Our community has just been hit and it hurts. … I think prayer is going to be what we’re going to need going forward.”

Among those attending were some of the victims’ families, first responders, and elected officials, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton. The vigil was led by Cottonwood Creek Senior Pastor John Mark Caton and several members of his staff, who took turns leading guided prayer sessions that included words of encouragement from Scripture. Referencing Psalm 34, which teaches that the Lord is set against those who do evil and that He is near the brokenhearted, Cottonwood Creek Elementary Minister Kelly Kitch said, “I want you to know that God is near, and it’s OK to cry out to Him.”

Caton said all of humanity longs to exist in a better place, but instead lives “in the in-between”—the place between God’s good and perfect creation found in Genesis 1 and the new heaven and earth promised in Revelation 21 where there is no longer “dying, crying, or pain.” As followers of Christ wait for the fulfillment of that promise while living in a world broken by sin, he said it is good for people to remember the words of Isaiah 61, which describes Jesus as the Messiah who will bring good news to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, and comfort all who mourn.

“Let us be a people who comfort those who mourn, who pray for those who grieve, who bring the oil of joy into spaces of sadness,” Caton said.

In closing the vigil, he prayed, “God, as we leave here tonight, we leave here corporately—willing to comfort and not hate, willing to love and bring others together instead of [letting] differences tear us apart. God, we trust that you … will comfort all who mourn.”

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