September 29, 1999

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AL MEREDITH (left), pastor of Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, asks participants in a Sept. 19 memorial service to lift their hands and say "Hallelujah" if they will work and pray to end the streak of violence that has been afflicting the nation. In the crowd, above right, Gov. George W. Bush (second row, center) joins a crowd of 15,000 in accepting Meredith's challenge. (Photos by Dan Martin)

Mourners urged to let their light shine
___By Dan Martin
___Texas Baptist Communications
___FORT WORTH--Don Browning stood in the broiling sun of the TCU football stadium Sept. 19 and told 15,000 mourners about the first solo his slain daughter, Sydney, ever sang.
wedglogosm___"We were a family of songs and love and light," he told people who gathered for a communitywide memorial service for victims killed and wounded when a gunman burst into a Wednesday night youth service at Wedgwood Baptist Church Sept. 15.
___"When my daughter was 6 years old and in the first grade, she sang her first solo, 'This
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ASHLEY STEELE (center) and Craig Nason are welcomed by Pastor Michael Dean of Travis Avenue Baptist Church. Steele and Nason are students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.
SHANNON CARTER, sister of slain Southwestern Seminary student Sydney Browning, speaks to reporters after her sister's funeral Sept. 18. (Photos by Bryan Murley/SWBTS)

Little Light of Mine,'" he recalled. "She didn't sing the Anglo version. She sang the African-American version."
___Browning, who now lives in Phoenix, the previous day buried the 36-year-old Sydney, who was children's choir director at Wedgwood Baptist and a teacher in a program designed to keep at-risk children in school.
___His voice breaking, Browning sang the slightly jazzier version of the children's song: "This little light of mine / I'm gonna let it shine / Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine."
___Children were encouraged to make up their own verses, he said. As he led out with another stanza, "Let it shine all over Fort Worth-town ...," the voices of the participants picked up the verse and sang it with him, at first softly and then with more power.
___"At the age of 36, Sydney sang the last verse," he said and led as the participants followed: "Let it shine 'til Jesus comes, I'm gonna let it shine / Let it shine 'til Jesus comes / I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine."
___Browning concluded: "That is what we gotta do, folks. We've got to keep on letting it shine."
MOURNERS lift their hands and sing "Alleluia" at the citywide memorial service. (Photo by Bryan Murley/SWBTS)
___Browning's impromptu choir was one of two particularly emotional moments during the ecumenical service, which was planned by community leaders including Mayor Kenneth Barr and Michael Dean, pastor of Travis Avenue Baptist Church.
___The other moment when the audience formed an impromptu choir came as Wedgwood Pastor Al Meredith said, "I want the violence and terror to stop" and asked participants each to raise one hand if they wanted it to stop as well.
___Then he asked them to raise the other hand and encouraged them to say, "Hallelujah," which he defined as "Praise the Lord." After saying it several times, he asked them to sing it, and led in several repetitions of the chorus "Alleluia."
___A reporter said the strains of the familiar praise chorus sweeping across the sun-
STEVEN CURTIS CHAPMAN sings during the citywide memorial services. (Photo by Bryan Murley/SWBTS)
drenched stadium were "eerie," and recounted that when Larry Gene Ashbrook burst into the packed sanctuary of Wedgwood, the band was playing a version of the chorus, a song called "Alle."
___In an emotional message, Meredith recalled that at 6 p.m. that evening, the Jews of the world would enter into their highest holy day, Yom Kippur, and urged participants to fast, pray, right their lives and seek the face of God so the violence and terror will stop.
___He said he has been amazed at the aftermath, noting, "We are just ordinary people, but we have an extraordinary God."
___"The world has looked on with amazement that we have handled our grief with victory," said Ken Hemphill, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where two of the slain and two of the injured were students and one was a recent graduate.
___"But our pain is real, and we do grieve. But we do not grieve as those without hope," he said, noting Christians know death has been defeated by Christ, and "we live in the light of the promises of God."
___The community service was opened by Brett Parker, a senior at North Crowley High School, who said those who came were there "to honor those who lost their lives in this horrible thing." He asked God in his prayer to "take your healing hands and ease the pain we all are feeling."
___Dean and Barr praised all who had worked
MOTORCYCLE POLICE escort a hearse carrying the body of Shawn Brown off of the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary after his funeral Sept. 18. (Photo by Bryan Murley/SWBTS)
so hard in the immediate aftermath--fire, police, medical technicians--and all the hundreds of others who took part in the relief effort, including schools, churches, individuals, groups, businesses and others.
___Also present at the event--although not on the stage--were Texas Gov. George W. Bush and his wife, Laura.
___Dean said Bush had been asked to speak at the memorial, but the governor, who also is an announced candidate for the Republican nomination for president, declined.
___Dean said Bush told him the event was a religious and not a political event. One news outlet quoted Bush as saying he felt it would be inappropriate for him to address the memorial. So he and his wife and entourage sat in the stands, three rows back from the field.
___Participants felt a solemn moment as another student, Patti Cornelius, a senior at Southwest High School, only a few miles from the church, slowly read the names of those killed in the shooting.
___Another student rang a large handbell one single time after each name was read: Kristi Beckel ... Shawn Brown ... Sydney Browning ... Cassandra Griffin ... Kim Jones ... Joey Ennis ... Justin Ray.
___Despite the amplification system, which usually booms out football plays, the audience had to strain to hear as Cornelius' voice got softer and softer with each name she read.
___Four Fort Worth clergymen brought brief remarks, including Scott Colglazier of University Christian Church, Richard Beaumont of St. Bartholomew Catholic Church and Rabbi Ralph Mecklenburger of Beth-El Congregation.
___Roberto Arrubla, pastor of Iglesia Bautista El Buen Pastor, who represented Hispanic Baptists of Texas, said: "Pain does not know distance, color, ethnicity, age or status, and the comfort of the Lord also does not know distance, color, ethnicity, age or status.
___"Praise God for his wonderful mercy and his wonderful grace."
___Arrubla told participants he is "proud of Texas Baptists who have provided so much assistance" to the relief effort.
___Two students from Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., which was devastated
TEXAS GOVERNOR George Bush was in the crowd at the memorial service. (Photo by Bryan Murley/SWBTS)
April 20 when two teenage gunmen rampaged through the school killing and wounding fellow students and teachers, came to offer help.
___"We didn't come with answers," said Craig Nason. "We know what you are going through. ... We came with prayer, love and support. We want to help you carry the burden any way we can." Nason and Ashley Steele then went into the congregation to touch and pray and minister with their Texas peers.
___Christian recording artist Stephen Curtis Chapman sang three songs, including one he wrote for the funeral of a girl slain at Paducah, Ky., in another act of random violence two years ago.
___Chapman said he came because he wanted to help those grieving and hurting however he could.
___Other music was provided by a choir and orchestra of musicians and singers from across the area who gathered shortly before the service under the direction of John Lee, minister of music at Travis Avenue Baptist Church.
___A trumpeter, wearing shorts and a cap, sat next to another player wearing a black suit and tie. Some singers lifted their hands; others didn't.
___All were sweltering in the heat of the 95-degree day. A few fainted.
___Texas Baptist Men volunteers handed out bottles of water to the musicians, news people and anyone who wanted a drink of cool water in the heat.


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