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Pastor experienced in tragedy shares perspective after Fort Worth church killings

"Give yourself permission to feel your feelings and talk it out. If you’re angry with God, talk about it," says Al Meredith.

FORT WORTH, Texas — The service held inside the West Freeway Church of Christ on Monday night was the first chance for the congregation to spread light and love after tragedy.

On Tuesday, we learned more about the person responsible for its darkest moment.

A 2012 protective order out of Oklahoma reveals an ex-wife sharing in frank detail her fear of Keith Kinnunen.

“Keith is a violent, paranoid person with a long line of assault and battery with and without firearms,” she said. “He is a religious fanatic, says he’s battling a demon,” the document reads.

Kinnunen shot and killed two church members before being killed by an armed member of the church security team.

Pastor Britt Farmer shared Monday evening that Kinnunen was not a stranger to the church in White Settlement.

“I had seen him. I had visited with him. I had given him food. I had offered him food at other occasions he had been to our building,” Farmer said.

Farmer added, according to the Christian Chronicle, that Kinnunen would get mad when West Freeway wouldn’t give him money.

Al Meredith says even that knowledge doesn’t explain irrational violence. 

“I had a number of people mad ‘well what kind of a church is this?’ And I’d say ‘we’re a church that doesn’t give money we give help,” Meredith said.

It is a subject the retired pastor became a reluctant expert in.

Meredith was lead pastor at Wedgwood Baptist when a gunman killed seven during a Wednesday night youth service in 1999.

In the 20 years since, he’s been asked so many times to speak about handling grief – he published a book this fal,  Surviving Catastrophe: Lessons Learned from the Wedgwood Shooting.

“Talk it out, don’t stuff it,” Meredith said. “Don’t tell anybody you shouldn’t feel this way or shouldn’t say that.  That’s bologna. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings and talk it out.  If you’re angry with God, talk about it.”

Current Wedgwood members were among those at the vigil Monday in the parking lot as a show of  solidarity and support with West Freeway Church of Christ.

Meredith says he hasn’t reached out yet, knowing firsthand the onslaught of calls a church receives after something like this.  He said he is available if anyone at West Freeway wants to reach out.

“Know that the community grieves with them, praying for them and reach out to the community,” Meredith said.

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