• September 16, 2019

Churchgoers unite after tragedy - Odessa American: Religion

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  • A Congregation in Mourning

    Congregants of First Odessa gathered in the worship center sunday morning to hear a sermon prepared with the events from saturday in mind. First Odessa holds sunday morning service after the mass shooting saturday left Joe Griffith, one of their congregation, dead.

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Posted: Sunday, September 1, 2019 2:22 pm

Heavy hearts gathered at First Baptist Church in Odessa Sunday seeking comfort after a deadly mass shooting sent shock waves through the community.

A gunman went on a shooting spree Saturday before being shot to death by law enforcement at Odessa’s Cinergy Theatre. The OA previously reported that there are eight confirmed deaths including the shooter. First Baptist Church member Joe Griffith was one of those lives lost.

Rick Pharaoh, a First Baptist Church member, said the Griffith family was scheduled to have a family portrait taken when the mass shooting took place. Pharaoh sat in the church’s cafe Sunday morning before service began and recalled having visited with Griffith in the same seating area last month.

“It’s a horrible tragedy for that family to lose Joe, for all of them to be there and be witness to that is just unspeakable,” he said. “How do you ever get over something like that? I think we need to band together and just show love to each other.”

Senior Pastor Byron McWilliams delivered a sermon to churchgoers to rehash the event, address the wounds caused by gun violence and offer a space for healing.

“As I entered the cafeteria at Medical Center Hospital yesterday, the grief was almost a physical assault it was so intense,” he said. “We all feel a sense of being violated. Every single one of us does because all of a sudden what we hear about from far, far away has come close to home.”

The congregation moved to the stage, where McWilliams led the group in prayer. Members leaned on one another and many began to weep for the community’s loss.

“We pray for (the Griffith) family and we commit to walk beside them and help Becky and the kids through this horrible time because we’re a family.”

McWilliams left attendees with the message that West Texas will move past the tragedy and will not be conquered by the event.

Odessa, TX

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