FORT WORTH, Texas — Songs, tears and prayers acknowledging God’s faithfulness flowed from Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, as the church held a special commemoration Sept. 13 of the 10th anniversary of the tragic shooting that stunned the nation and forever changed the congregation. On Sept. 15, 1999, a gunman entered Wedgwood during a Wednesday night See You at the Pole rally and began shooting, leaving seven people dead and wounding five others before killing himself.
The commemorative service provided a time of remembrance and reflection through singing, video testimonies and a time of prayer for healing. Outside, churchgoers placed “stones of remembrance” on a granite monument, dedicated in 2002, that honors the victims.
A theme throughout the evening was God’s faithfulness during the midst of tragedy. The church’s choir led in singing such hymns as “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and “Amazing Grace” in addition to contemporary songs that amplified God’s sovereignty in bringing good out of bad circumstances.
Video interviews with family members who lost loved ones and individuals wounded in the shooting testified to the peace and strength they found in God as well as the lessons He has taught them.
Kathy Jo Rogers, whose husband Shawn was killed, said, “The main thing that God has taught me in these 10 years is to learn to trust Him. I trusted Him for my salvation before Sept. 15, 1999, but I had never had to really trust Him.”
Others recounted how they came to understand what it means to rely on God fully even during dark times.
After the videos, Wedgwood pastor Al Meredith led in a time of prayer, saying, “I don’t believe the church is ever more powerful than when we’re on our knees before Him.”
Meredith invited anyone wanting physical, emotional or spiritual healing to come forward for prayer. Throughout the sanctuary, church members and staff gathered around individuals, laying hands on them as they prayed.
The service concluded with an invitation for those without a relationship with God through Jesus Christ to repent and put their trust in Him.
“Nothing in this life will completely satisfy,” Meredith said. “Nothing in this life will ever take away all the pain, all the tears, all the sorrow so that you just simply skip off into eternity. Faith is trusting in God today and knowing that if the pain never goes away, if the loneliness never abates, someday the doors of heaven will be wide open … and the Savior will be there with arms open wide…. That’s what we’re really longing for.”
The evening also served as a reunion for Wedgwood members and individuals from the community who aided the church in the moments and months following the shooting.
“That night so long ago, so many of you came to our rescue,” Meredith said in recognizing police officers, firefighters, EMT personnel and counselors who helped that night and thanking them anew for their care and tireless service. He also thanked a local Church of Christ congregation for their support and friendship, which began in the aftermath of the event.
“One of the good things that came out of the shootings was the cross-denominational, cross-racial fellowship between churches,” Meredith said, noting that the tragedy served as the impetus for a Fort Worth organization that connects churches from a variety of denominations through monthly prayer meetings and ministry opportunities.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Collier is director of news and information at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)