South Florida church finding a way forward after school shooting

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As church families gathered around the nation on Sunday, many congregations prayed for all affected by the mass school shooting that took place in Parkland, Fla. on Feb. 14.

Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer, asked that everyone in our Southern Baptist family take time during worship to pray for the families affected by the tragedy that took the lives of 17 staff and students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“Our prayer is for God to grant comfort, mercy, and peace to these families,” he said.

And that’s exactly what happened at Church by the Glades in Coral Springs, a congregation that has been particularly hard-hit. Abe Matos, who serves as student pastor there, said Sunday’s worship service was powerful.

“Something powerful happens when we don’t know why something occurred but we worship anyway,” he said.

Matos estimates that hundreds of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students attend Church by the Glades. Five members of his congregation were either injured or killed in the attack.

As victims’ names were released, the leadership at Church by the Glades wasted no time making phone calls and hospital visits to anyone connected to their church. Matos said that staff leaders are showing up to any public event in their immediate area connected to the shootings. They are also trying to attend every viewing, whether or not they knew the victim personally. In doing so, the hope is that they not only minister to a grieving family, but other grieving students also.

“It doesn’t matter if they’re Jewish or Mormon,” he said. “We’re showing up everywhere and anywhere in hopes of recognizing someone and ministering to them right then and there.”

Billy Young, Next Gen Catalyst for the Convention, said being there to love and listen is the most important thing you can do for students after a tragedy.

In the coming days, as students continue to process the shootings and the losses they’ve suffered, Matos wants students to know that Church by the Glades is a safe place for them to gather with classmates and friends to mourn and support each other. He hopes students will see it as a part of their personal healing.

“If that’s the only coping mechanism we give them – that when something bad happens you run to God’s house – we have equipped them for a life time,” he said.

By Nicole Kalil, Florida Baptist Convention, February 19, 2018

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