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After Mass Shooting That Claimed His Daughter, Grieving Nashville Pastor Preaches About Loss

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Screenshot from Facebook / @Covenant Presbyterian Church

In his return to the pulpit following the death of his 9-year-old daughter during the recent Nashville shooting, the Rev. Chad Scruggs expressed gratitude for congregants’ love and support. The Mother’s Day sermon, titled “Loss and Gain,” touched on suffering and grief as well as hope and endurance.

On March 27, third-grader Hallie Scruggs was one of six people killed during a mass shooting at The Covenant School, founded by Covenant Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Scruggs, the church’s lead pastor, addressed the tragedy from the pulpit on May 14 before preaching from John 19:23-27, about the women who faithfully stayed with Jesus as he suffered and died on the cross.

Pastor Chad Scruggs: ‘I’m Searching for a New Baseline’

“First of all, we love you,” an emotional Scruggs told worshipers. “We loved you before March 27, and we love you more now because of how you have loved us…and we thank you.” As for how he and the family are doing, the pastor said that’s not a bad question, but they “just don’t know how to answer it.”

Scruggs admitted, “I’m searching for a new baseline in life right now.” The pastor and his wife, Jada, have three other children. Hallie was their youngest.

For help with the grieving process, Scruggs said he has turned to C.S. Lewis’ journal-like book “A Grief Observed.” Lines that stand out to him—but which he acknowledged aren’t easy to hear—include: “There is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it” and “There is no device which will make pain no longer be pain.”

Although Christians aren’t “magically shielded from hurt” and can’t “pretend it away,” Scruggs said, we grieve with hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). “The hope never erases the grief,” he added, but just as the women in John 19 stood by Jesus’ cross, people have faithfully showed up to suffer with his family.

“That has been your gift to us,” Scruggs told congregants, noting that people haven’t tried to cheer up his family or pretend the suffering from the Nashville shooting isn’t so bad. But through hugs, cards, texts, meals, flowers, and prayers, he added, “You have showed up to suffer with us, which is an acknowledgment that love under the shadow of the cross is often best expressed not with words, but in presence and tears.”

Loss As an Amputation

Scruggs also cited Lewis’ comparison of loss to the amputation of an arm. “We’re learning to live with a part of us missing,” he said. “From our perspective now, it feels impossible to ever pretend the arm will regenerate or that it will ever feel whole this side of heaven.” The pastor added, “We’re learning to live with sadness, and that’s okay. You can do that.”

Pointing to Isaiah 40:31, Scruggs said he’s “trying to walk without fainting” and is “grateful that we’ve never felt alone.”

While examining the sermon text, Scruggs referred to the women at the cross as the “faithful remnant,” staying by Jesus “in his moment of horror.” Because John lists names, “history will not forget the faithfulness of these women who came to be with Jesus in this, his darkest hour,” said Scruggs.

He concluded with reminders that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:38-39) and that “death itself cannot tear us apart.”

Pastor Scruggs Remains ‘Focused on His Family’

A spokeswoman for Covenant Presbyterian Church said Scruggs isn’t speaking to the media at this time. “He is focused on his family and the grieving and healing process,” she told The Washington Times. Other church and school leaders aren’t giving interviews about the Nashville shooting either. “The church and school are focused on caring for the students, faculty, staff, and families and ending the school year as well as possible,” the spokeswoman said.