A Tennessee pastor who nearly died after a gunman open-fired at his church in September has finally returned to the pulpit, sharing an inspirational message about unity, recovery — and forgiveness.
Pastor Joey Spann addressed his flock at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee, on Sunday, recounting the horrific ordeal that unfolded on Sept. 24 when gunman Emanual Samson, 25, allegedly killed one woman and injured seven others, including Spann. This was Spann’s first full sermon back at the church since the tragic shooting.
“I thought I was dead, he shot me in the chest, he shot my finger off,” Spann said. “I thought I was dead. I told my wife bye.”
But rather than marinate on the tragedy and negativity that took place, Spann took the time to praise the church for standing together in the face of fear, WZTV-TV reported.
“There was an opportunity for us to scatter,” he continued. “But you didn’t and I’m so proud of how the family of God acted in this time period.”
Spann added, “We are the light of the world.”
The preacher said that he relives the shooting daily and has questions about why it unfolded the way it did. In the end, though, he knows he might not get the answers he’s looking for.
Spann also discussed the reasons why he has chosen forgiveness, citing his Christian faith, the Tennessean reported.
“To have shown anger and to have shown unforgiving nature would have been just the opposite … that would have bveen harder to do than to be Christ-like,” he said. “It’s not something special about us; it’s just Christ living in us.”
The pastor made similar statements before his congregation on Sunday.
“If I want to receive mercy, I must be merciful,” Spann said. “The forgiving part is for us. It purifies our hearts… You have to forgive for your own good.”
The church also celebrated its annual Christmas party after the sermon.
As Faithwire previously reported, 22-year-old Robert Engle has been hailed a hero. The church usher was pistol whipped during the church shooting, but he managed to run out alive. Then, he went to his car, retrieved a weapon, and headed back in to the church. Engle helped subdue the shooter and then stood over him until police arrived.