Editor’s Note: This story was updated on March 30.
NASHVILLE — Nathan Parker, senior pastor of Woodmont Baptist Church in Nashville, said he “could not be more proud” of his staff and church members who served as the hands and feet of Jesus in the immediate aftermath of Monday’s deadly school shooting at Covenant School.
Parker used those words in a message that was posted on the church’s Facebook page.
Woodmont Baptist served as the “reunification center” for children and families in the hours after the tragic incident, in which three students and three staff members were killed.
In the Facebook post, Parker praised “church members, neighbors, lay leaders, deacons, etc.” for leaping into action and providing assistance and compassion in the midst of unthinkable circumstances. Parker also noted that “the prayers of the saints of this community were palpably felt in our church today.”
Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, said Woodmont Baptist Church showed the love of Christ to the terrified families.
“I am extremely proud of Woodmont Baptist Church and pastor Nathan Parker,” Davis said in a statement on Tuesday. “The church quickly responded to the need to receive the children and care for them until they were reunited with parents.”
Davis and Tennessee Baptist Convention president Clay Hallmark reiterated those feelings in a joint statement on March 30 that was distributed to pastors, directors of missions and directors of the TBMB. See full statement below this story or click here to enlarge.
In his Facebook post, Parker explained that he wasn’t initially aware that Woodmont had been designated as the reunification center. Church leaders first learned of the decision when Beth Howe, minister of students and discipleship, saw a message on Twitter.
“None of us had been made aware of that (decision),” Parker’s post read, “but our staff leapt into action and did not stop until families had left the building many hours later.”
Parker said he did not learn about the details of the arrangement until long after things had settled down.
“Late in the afternoon, an older gentleman approached me with his hand out,” Parker’s post read. “He said, ‘I am the Facility Director at Covenant. And when they asked me where to send these kids, I said, ‘Woodmont Baptist Church.’
“I told him we were honored, of course, and asked him why he told administrators and first responders to come here. He said, ‘I’ve been driving by that church for 18 years, and I knew it was a good church. I see the work you’re doing, and I knew you were a good church.”
The shooting occurred at approximately 10:15 on Monday morning, and parents began arriving at Woodmont just before 11 a.m. Children were brought to the church in buses to be reconnected with their parents.
“This event should be a resounding reminder to Christians that we’ve got to be salt and light in this increasingly dark world,” Davis said in his statement. “Our only hope is faith in Jesus Christ. We’ve got to advance the message of the gospel.”
Davis said he was heartbroken over the news.
“Like so many, I had a hard time sleeping last night, thinking about the tragic events,” he said. “(It was) such a devastating and unnecessary loss of life. My heart just breaks and goes out to the families of those who suffered loss and to the Covenant community.”
In his post, Parker wrote that he was glad Woodmont was able to serve a role amid the chaos.
“I am grateful for the reputation that our church has gained as a ‘good church’ in our community. I am grateful that the Lord saw fit to use our church as a sanctuary today. I’m grateful to be on this journey with you all, even when the road is rocky,” he wrote. B&R
Addressing The Covenant School Shooting
Like so many, we’ve had a difficult time thinking about and processing the tragic events that transpired Monday at Covenant School, Nashville. Such a devastating and unnecessary loss of life. Our hearts just break, along with those of Tennessee Baptists across our state, and prayers continue to be voiced for the entire Covenant community and especially for the families who suffered loss. This senseless act of evil hits close to home as there are many connections between Tennessee Baptists and friends and families who are a part of the Covenant family.
We especially want to commend the rapid and resolved response by the Nashville Metro Police Department and the courageous officers who charged into the line of fire. It was literally four minutes from the time officers arrived on campus until they neutralized the threat. They no doubt saved countless lives by their determined approach to protect those overcome by this terrorist act.
And we are extremely proud of the members of Woodmont Baptist Church and Pastor Nathan Parker. The church quickly responded to the need to receive Covenant’s students and lovingly care for them until they were reunited with parents. They showed the love of Christ and deep compassion.
This event ought to be a resounding reminder to Christians that we’ve got to be salt and light in this increasingly dark world. Our only hope is faith in Jesus Christ. We’ve got to advance the message of the gospel.
Please continue to pray for everyone associated with The Covenant School and Covenant Presbyterian Church families. They have suffered an incredible trauma. May we “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15) as we ask for God’s mercy, grace on all who were affected.
Even in unimaginable sorrow, it is a joy for us to be with you on this journey.
Dr. Randy C. Davis
Tennessee Baptist Mission Board
Dr. Clay Hallmark
Tennessee Baptist Convention