Santa Fe church pledges support after shooting

SANTA FE—After a mass shooting claimed the lives of eight students and two teachers May 18 at Santa Fe High School, Arcadia First Baptist Church in Santa Fe gathered for worship. Interim pastor Jerl Watkins asked the capacity crowd to come together as a community to pray and support one another.

“This is not a time for anything except to love our neighbors,” Watkins said. 

In a statement released on the church’s website, deacon Doug McDowell said many students from the church attend Santa Fe High, including one of the 13 wounded in the attack. “We will stand ready to provide counseling and comfort for our families in the coming days,” he pledged, noting that the church hosted members of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott arrived in time to greet members and offer words of comfort before the start of the service. Afterward, Abbott left flowers at a memorial site outside the school and prayed for families.

As prayer strategist for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Ted Elmore told members, “The hurt goes deep. It stays around a long time, but there’s help.” He offered resources to assist with counseling and other needs the church might have.

Graduating seniors who attend the church were recognized that morning and a baccalaureate service scheduled to be held at the high school was moved to the church’s worship center.

“Changing laws is not what’s going to be what changes hearts,” stated Stephen Wilhite, associate pastor of worship. “What changes hearts is us getting out of these walls and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. When people repent of their sins and put their faith in Jesus, that’s when we will see change in this world.”

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