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Texas Baptists grieve mall shooting victims, support families

A memorial took shape following the May 6 shooting at a mall in Allen, Texas. Photo from Collin Baptist Association/Facebook

ALLEN, Texas (BP) — Collin Baptist Association (CBA) churches joined others to grieve the tragic moments May 6 that left nine killed, seven injured and countless Americans weary from yet another mass shooting.

Three of the dead were from the same family, whose children attended Prestonwood Christian Academy, founded out of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano.

Mike Goddard, superintendent of Prestonwood Christian Academy, and Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, speak to the school, church and community in light of a deadly shooting in the community over the weekend. (Prestonwood Christian Academy screen capture)

“We have this unique relationship, as church and school, so we’re together in this,” said Jack Graham, senior pastor at Prestonwood. “And this wonderful, sweet family – three of the four now in heaven, and a child left behind – needs the ministry and the care of Christian people. And our entire community needs this as well.”

Graham made the comments in a video released today (May 6) alongside Mike Goddard, superintendent of Prestonwood Christian Academy System of Schools.

Shoppers strolled outside the Allen Premium Outlets Saturday afternoon, temperatures climbing to 85, when a lone gunman opened fire. The shooting ended with a police officer firing back and killing the gunman.

Cottonwood Creek Church in Allen hosted a vigil that drew some 2,000 attendees, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Allen mayor-elect Blaine Brooks. At the church’s Sunday morning service, Senior Pastor John Mark Caton called the shooting an event that changed their community “in a moment.”

A group prays together as the community of Allen, Texas looks to recover from a May 6 shooting. Photo from Collin Baptist Association/Facebook

“How do God’s people respond in a moment like this?” he asked. Such a response must be “filled with more passion than ever. To share the truth, to share the Good News, to share Jesus.”

It is the second-deadliest shooting of the year. On Jan. 21, a gunman killed 11 in a Monterey Park, Calif., ballroom. The Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as the shooting of at least four people, has recorded 202 such incidents in 2023.

The shock of joining those statistics will last a while.

“To say it was a difficult weekend for our community doesn’t begin to describe it,” CBA Associational Missionary Matt Henslee said in a tweet.

CBA churches responded quickly after the shooting, he told Baptist Press, taking water to the mall, sharing the Gospel and offering prayer.

Henslee attended a men’s ministry event at Cottonwood Creek Friday night. A friend of his who had been a speaker at the event messaged him the next day to alert him about the shooting. A fellow member of his church, Farmersville First Baptist, is an emergency room nurse who attended to the first victims, Henslee said.

Prestonwood joined other churches in special prayer services for those impacted.

“The church is made for a time like this, as Christians are made for moments like these, so we can show the love of Christ and to be there for people,” said Graham, who experienced a similar tragedy when his own father was murdered.

“I know something of the hurt and the pain and the sorrow and the grief that goes along with this. … Now’s the time to be the church. To love people as Christ has loved us. And so, we will keep doing that. And we’ll stand on point in our community to proclaim the hope and the faith of Jesus Christ, all in His love and in His grace.”