Leadership and members of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham are lifting up prayers for those impacted by the school shooting that occurred in Nashville on Monday.
The Nashville Police Department confirmed that six people were killed at Covenant Presbyterian School — three students and three adults. The victims were identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, 9; Hallie Scruggs, 9; William Kinney, 9; custodian Mike Hill, 61; Cynthia Peak, 61; and the head of the school, Katherine Koonce, 60. Scruggs was the daughter of the pastor of the church
Senior pastor Harry Reeder, of Briarwood Presbyterian Church, a sister church of Covenant, offered prayer and support to the families in Nashville.
"I/we at Briarwood are Praying for our sister Church in Nashville, Covenant Presbyterian and Covenant School in light of this tragic evil," Reeder said. "Specifically, praying for the pastors and leadership as they minister to their congregation and the surrounding community."
Reeder told 1819 News that families in his church have many connections with the Nashville church. In fact, the executive pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church, Rev. Billy Barnes, is the son-in-law of the founding pastor of Briarwood, Rev. Frank Barker. Reeder said that prayer is the most important thing at this time.
"We believe that God's providences are united with the prayers of His people," Reeder explained. "So, God's wonderful ministry of His presence, His power and His peace is always in concert with the prayers of His people. So, our church right now has been mobilized with prayer for the entire situation. We are obviously praying for those in that church that we know, but we are praying for everyone at that church, and we are praying for the school, which is a ministry of that church and the leadership. This is really a traumatic thing to encounter. So, we're thinking of them, but we're praying for them. I hear a lot of people that say, 'Well, our thoughts and prayers are with you.' Well, I like to say it this way: Our thoughts are with you, but our prayers are for you to the Lord and that he would intervene with His presence, His power and His peace."
Police believe 28-year-old Audrey Elizabeth Hale was responsible for the deadly shooting at 33 Burton Hills Boulevard. The shooting started around 10:13 a.m. when Hale entered the building through a side door, investigators believe. The time between the 911 call and the end of the shooting was 14 minutes. Two officers are credited for entering the building and running toward the sound of gunfire to mitigate the threat to students.
Hale, who identified as a male, was also an illustrator and graphic designer, according to her business website.
"Aside from art, I enjoy binging on video games, watching movies, and playing sports," she wrote in her bio. "There is a child-like part about me that likes to go run to the playground."
Hale sometimes went by the name Aiden Hale.
Reeder said as more information becomes available, he will remind members of Briarwood Presbyterian Church and his community that the question is not always "why?"
"You have to remember there are things that contribute to this evil act, but they don't explain it," Reeder added. "Sin is not rational. Sin is irrational. Evil is not understandable. Evil is irrational. Now, we will find out the contributing events that gave rise to the decision to perpetrate this evil, and therefore, we will be praying for God's grace to be at work in the intricacies of this and the life of the person who perpetrated this. We would ask for God's intervention as well as not only for His work of grace but also for the appropriate acts of justice to be done. So, you're always praying in two directions. For God's saving grace and for Biblical justice to be applied."
Following tragic events at the hands of another, anger is often an emotion we as humans jump to, Reeder said. But in this case, he hopes we also put energy into healing.
"What we want to avoid is the anger of man," he said. "Anger in and of itself is not a sin. It's an emotion. But we don't want self-centered anger, and we don't want to be caught up in self-absorbed anger. We want to be angered at evil, but we want to intervene with grace in the lives of those who are hurting ... We need to be available to allow God's presence to work through us in the lives of those in this church, those in this school and the families of these children and the families of these adults."
Reeder has contacted Covenant Presbyterian Church to offer resources and support from Briarwood.
"We stand ready to serve them in any way we can, in addition to praying," he continued. Prayer is the best thing we can do, but it's not the only thing we can do."
Briarwood and Covenant are both members of the Presbyterian Church of America, and both have schools. According to its website, Covenant Presbyterian School employs around 33 teaching faculty and typically enrolls between 195 to 210 students.
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