It was the early morning hours of Sept. 15, 1999, when Dr. Al Meredith (B.R.E. ’68) returned to Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. Hours before, a gunman had entered Meredith’s church during a prayer meeting and opened fire. He killed seven people and wounded seven more before turning the gun on himself.
After an emotionally taxing night, Meredith stood on a street corner by his church and gave a press conference in the wake of the tragedy. The very first question posed to him was one that often surfaces when a catastrophe occurs: “Where was God in all of this?”
“God is exactly where He has always been—on His throne,” Meredith responded to the reporter. “He is the sovereign Lord of the universe, and He is not up for reelection. He was not on vacation. He is in control, and He cares deeply for each one of us.”
On Sept. 14, 2019, Meredith published “Surviving Catastrophe: Lessons Learned from the Wedgwood Shooting.” The book covers everything from forgiveness to Christian counseling to survivor’s guilt. Meredith wrote the book as a guide for pastors, church leaders and Christians to survive their own “catastrophes.”
“Your tragedy might not be a shooting in a church,” Meredith said. “It could be a marriage falling apart, a death in the family. The emotions are universal: the shock, deep grief and anger.”
In his book, Meredith talks about the importance of Christian counseling. Some pastors write off the idea of faith-based counseling and medication, but Meredith sees it as a necessity, especially for pastors ministering to those in crisis.
“The whole man needs healing,” Meredith said. “I tell the seminary students that I mentor, ‘Don’t let your body write checks that your soul can’t cash in later.'”
Meredith is now retired from Wedgwood, a congregation that grew by 50% in the years following the shooting in 1999, and is still approached by the media when a tragedy occurs.
“If God wanted to do things differently, He would,” Meredith said, “but I need to resign my position as general manager of the universe and let God be God. I will understand someday, in this life or the next, why some of my prayers weren’t answered. That’s what faith is. And nothing makes the devil more upset and God more pleased.”
Al Meredith (B.R.E. ’68) was pastor at Wedgwood Baptist Church for almost 27 years and retired in 2015. He is regarded as one of the experts on congregations navigating tragedy with grace and purpose. A native of Michigan, he now lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with his wife, Kay.