Several hundred people gathered Wednesday night at the Santa Fe Junior High School football stadium to grieve and try to understand the school shooting that killed eight students and two teachers last week.
A group of local pastors organized the service, which they called a “night of hope and healing.”
“This is really just the beginning of what will be a long process for these families and this community to build themselves back up,” said Brad Drake, senior pastor at Dayspring Church. “And we believe that God has placed us here, best-suited to do that for the long term.”
The service opened and closed with Christian hymns and spirituals. In between, one by one, almost a dozen ministers preached, read Bible verses and remembered grieving families and first-responders.
Tim Gregory, pastor at Santa Fe Family Worship Center, urged people to come together as a community and keep their spirits up.
“The rain’s coming now, but a beautiful rainbow’s going to come. That rainbow’s going to come over Santa Fe, you believe it. That sun is going to shine. Our faith will not be shaken. God bless you,” he said to applause.
Other pastors talked of their own grief, from this shooting and also from personal tragedy. One talked of how he lost his own son in a car accident several years ago. Several pastors also recognized that it will take time for many people in Santa Fe to recover.
Many families wore green and gold – Santa Fe’s school colors – to the event. While many people filled the bleachers, others sat in lawn chairs in the middle of the soggy football field, or used the fence behind the goal post as a prayer rail. At the end of the service, a few dozen participants joined hands in a prayer circle.
Annette Holder came with her son, who will be a freshman at Santa Fe High School in the fall. She said that many people are “struggling to wrap their heads around how something like this could happen in our town.”
“I think our community and mostly our kids need this, just to get together and know everyone’s behind them and that God’s there for them,” Holder said. “I think thoughts and prayers are everything. I think if prayer was around, if everyone had that all the time and we still had it in our schools, it would make a world of difference.”
Richard Pourchot, the youth minister at Dayspring Church, said he hoped the event could be a model for the country.
“When things like this happen, we can lift one another up,” he said.