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Those grieving the victims of Sunday's shooting hold candlelights outside the West Freeway church building Monday night.
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When a community of faith becomes a community in grief


WHITE SETTLEMENT, Texas — On Dec. 29, we watched in terror as the news unfolded about the horrific events at the West Freeway Church of Christ. Six seconds changed the lives of so many as gunshots interrupted the quiet clanking of communion trays being passed, leaving three people dead.


Related: Three people dead, including gunman, in shooting at Church of Christ in Texas


Beverly Ross

Beverly Ross

I am the founder and executive director of Wise County Christian Counseling, a non-profit counseling center in Decatur, Texas. We are less than 45 minutes from this church and knew we wanted to be with them. Our staff is trained in grief work, having opened our own grief center, Jenny’s Hope, in September 2018. Our counselors are trauma-informed and were ready to offer help. 

After some discussion with Britt Farmer and Brandon Kaag, two of the ministers at West Freeway, we decided I would bring a team of seven counselors to join their life groups on three consecutive Sunday afternoons.

Our theme became: No one has to walk the grief road alone, but everyone has to walk their own grief road. Every person has to show up with their own stories, traumas and perspectives. But we walk arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder. 

When someone has a “grief event,” we frequently tell them how brave and how strong they are. 

Let’s be clear: It is not brave, and it is not strong to get ushered onto a road you don’t want to walk. It is not brave, and it is not strong to have a shooting at your church.

“Let’s be clear: It is not brave, and it is not strong to get ushered onto a road you don’t want to walk.”

But it is so brave and extremely strong to show up to discuss it and see how we can walk together, helping each other figure it out. It is brave and strong to hear another person’s viewpoint with curiosity and empathy. The West Freeway church is filled with brave and strong people!

Our team of counselors listened intently as our brave new friends shared what it was like for them individually to be near the gunfire that Sunday. Some shared remorse that they weren’t there that day to help others whom they love. 

Some expressed remorse that they hadn’t been able to do more to assist the dying. Nobody was unchanged by the events of the shooting, including our counselors.

Elder Mike Tinius, left, wraps an arm around minister Britt Farmer as he leads the West Freeway church in prayer.

Elder Mike Tinius, left, wraps an arm around minister Britt Farmer as he leads the West Freeway church in prayer.

I do not believe that “time heals all wounds.” I believe that time done well helps us develop the emotional and spiritual muscle to carry the pain. Learning to carry pain is never an accident. It is done with great intention. 

“I do not believe that ‘time heals all wounds.’ I believe that time done well helps us develop the emotional and spiritual muscle to carry the pain.”

Our counselors facilitated discussions centered on the intentional hard work of grief. We shared in open and vulnerable conversations about how to manage the overwhelming anxiety produced by this trauma. We taught physical calming techniques. 

We championed getting curious about emotion, giving yourself permission to experience it so you don’t get stuck. We shared ways to step in close to emotionally safe people. And we shared ways to stay focused spiritually. 

From the moment our team walked through the doors of the West Freeway church, we knew we were in the midst of an inspiring group of people. Not because they had endured a nightmare, but because they held their wounded arms open to us, inviting us into the sacred space of connection with them.

It was truly our blessing and our honor to sit with this community and walk with this community and pray with this community. Their honesty about the pain is rare. Their commitment to walking this road together is beautiful. Their faith in the Lord is inspiring.

Thank you, West Freeway Church of Christ, for modeling for the rest of us what it looks like to walk a painful journey, keeping your face toward the light of heaven. 

BEVERLY ROSS and her husband, Rick, serve the Decatur Church of Christ in Texas. (She is not related, as far as we know, to Bobby Ross Jr., The Christian Chronicle’s editor-in-chief.)

Filed under: Church of Christ church shooting grief healing Opinion Texas tx Views West Freeway church

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