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Grief, Fear Haunt Nashville as Residents Gather To Mourn in Wake of Covenant Shooting

The Rev. Samantha McGlothlin of Belle Meade United Methodist Church said that Covenant School head Katherine Koonce, one of the victims, had spoken to parents at her church in the past and was scheduled to be at the church again in a few weeks. She said she did not know Koonce but felt a connection to her and the church when news of the shooting hit.

Despite its growth in recent years, Nashville still can feel like a small community, where everyone knows each other and where people feel their neighbors’ pain.

On Tuesday morning, McGlothlin opened up the church for prayer. The first to show up was a mom and her two young kids on their way to school. Others showed up bewildered or overwhelmed. McGlothlin said most of the time she listened or gave people hugs and wept with them.

“You have to create space where people can grieve,” she said. “And remember that prayer can be about tears and asking questions. And in those moments, when you are listening to God, can lead to action.”

Having time to grieve can also make it easier for people to listen to each other, McGlothlin said. In moments of grief or intense heartbreak, it’s hard to make wise decisions. She said faith and prayer can help people process those emotions so they are ready to act and look for possible solutions and a way forward.

A crowd gathers outside the courthouse and City Hall for a vigil held for victims of The Covenant School shooting on Wednesday, March 29, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. RNS photo by Bob Smeitana

A crowd gathers outside the courthouse and City Hall on March 29, 2023, in Nashville, Tennessee, for a vigil for victims of The Covenant School shooting. RNS photo by Bob Smeitana

At a downtown vigil on Wednesday, held in front of a Nashville city hall and courthouse, there was a sense of grief and despair, a weight in the air in the midst of prayer and a call for hope. City officials and pastors prayed for the victims, and the Metro Nashville chief of police praised the police officers who rushed into the Covenant school to stop the shooter from killing even more people.

Very little is known about the shooter, a former student at Covenant who was killed by police. The shooter reportedly left a manifesto that has not been made public.

Ketch Secor, a singer and founding member of the Old Crow Medicine Show, captured the mood by leading those at the vigil in a familiar hymn, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” a song of grief and hope about a better world.

That song left the question of whether the circle of violence that’s haunted the country will ever be broken.

“Will the circle be unbroken, by and by, Lord, by and by?” the crowd sang. “There’s a better world a waiting in the sky.”

This article originally appeared here.