While a United Methodist bishop comforted members of the Gardendale church where a former Decatur pastor is charged with murdering his wife, the tragedy also loomed over his former flock in Decatur during Sunday's sermon.
Terry Greer, who preached for eight years at First United Methodist in Decatur, is charged by Gardendale police in the shooting death of his wife Lisa Greer, 52, in the church-owned parsonage Thursday.
He's also charged with attempted murder in the gunshot wounding of their 18-year-old daughter, Suzanna, who graduated from Decatur High School in May.
Greer, 54, switched pulpits with former Gardendale pastor Rudy Guess in June.
Guess addressed the Decatur congregation's sense of shock and disbelief when about 250 people gathered at the Canal Street Northeast church Friday afternoon after hearing the news.
The tragedy continued to hang over Sunday worship as Guess announced funeral arrangements for former Chestnut Grove Elementary teacher Lisa Greer, and plans for sending sympathy cards and setting up a fund for Suzanna Greer.
He offered counseling for church members and prayed for God to lift up the Greer family.
Guess wove the crisis into this week's sermon, the second in a series about overcoming life's fears. After he rattled off a list of humorous conundrums from Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht's "The Complete Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook," the chuckles died and the somber mood returned.
"The writers of that book could never have dreamed of the scenario we find ourselves in," Guess said.
He told how in the Bible in Mark 14:32, Jesus was afraid when he went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray prior to his arrest and crucifixion.
"In times of fear, we need to turn to our Heavenly Father" and then "rise to face fear," he said.
Church member David Stewart said he felt the message was what the "shocked and stunned" congregation needed.
Stewart said Greer was a beloved pastor and friend and was instrumental in getting church aid for his son, Brian Stewart, and his Army unit during a tour in Iraq.
"He's a great man. I greatly admire, respect and love him," Stewart said. "... He was just here in June, and now this."
His wife, Deborah Stewart, said Christians must have faith even when God isn't forthcoming with answers for why bad things happen.
"We don't know what the story is, and we're not trying to support one way or the other. We're just trying to accept it and come to terms with it," she said.
At Greer's new church, Gardendale-Mount Vernon United Methodist, North Alabama Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett preached three services.
Brittney Lawrence of Gardendale said the mood was solemn in the sanctuary as Wallace-Padgett reminded a heavy-hearted congregation how in Mark 4:35, Jesus stilled the waters around a storm-tossed boat on the Sea of Galilee.
"I guess she was trying to relate to us being like the disciples — being scared and not knowing what was going to happen — but she was telling us it's OK, Jesus is with you, and he's going to calm the storm. God's in control," Lawrence said.
"There's nothing you can do but just pray for him and his family and everyone affected by this tragedy," she said.
Gardendale police have not said why they believe Greer shot his wife and daughter with a pistol Thursday.
After Suzanna wrested the pistol from Terry Greer's hand and ran to a neighbor's house to call 911, Greer went into a bathroom and stabbed himself in the chest and neck with a kitchen knife, Police Chief Mike Walker said.
Lisa Greer later died from her injuries. Police said Terry and Suzanna Greer were being treated at University of Alabama-Birmingham Hospital, though a hospital spokeswoman gave no information about their conditions.
Greer was under police guard at the hospital and will later be transferred to Jefferson County Jail, police said.
Lawrence said she doesn't know Greer well.
He only preached a short time in Gardendale before being injured in a car wreck in October as a result of heart complications while driving. A month later, he was injured when he fell from the deck on the back of the parsonage.
Lawrence said the church was already distressed by the arrest of 31-year-old contemporary worship leader Joel Kent Hodges, who was charged in December with soliciting a child under 16 and traveling to meet the child for sex.
"This whole situation was very shocking to us," Lawrence said. "It's very trying and very, very hard to grasp. You kind of want to blame God for the situation, that he's testing our church. You want to believe that the devil's involved, but God doesn't do anything without a plan."
Visitation for Lisa Greer will be from 6 to 8 p.m. today at Scottsboro Funeral Home, 1502 County Park Road, Scottsboro. Funeral will be at Scottsboro First United Methodist Church at 2 p.m. Tuesday. The body will be at the church two hours before the service.
Decatur's First United Methodist is arranging for a church bus to transport mourners to the service at 11:30 a.m. Details on the fund for Suzanna Greer will be forthcoming.