The widow of a pastor killed in mid-sermon urged mourners to reject hate and to take comfort in their faith at his funeral, in the church where he was gunned down five days ago.
"On Sunday, my husband didn't die. He simply got a promotion," Cindy Winters said at the service on Friday. She raised a hand to the sky as the "Movin' on Up" theme from "The Jeffersons" blared from the loudspeakers and the standing-room-only crowd rose to its feet at First Baptist Church in this St Louis suburb.
Fred Winters was eulogized as a coupon-clipping brainiac who never forgot a name and a devoted family man, with two young daughters, whose love for basketball was outmatched by his passion for the Bible. The 45-year-old had a bachelor's degree, two master's degrees and a doctorate, but his wife joked, "I could never teach him how to fold laundry."
Winters' closed casket was just feet from where his life ended on Sunday, when authorities entered the church with a .45-caliber Glock handgun and enough bullets to kill 30 people, said Terry Sedlacek, 27. Investigators say his eyes were fixed on the preacher as he walked down an aisle toward the altar.
The first shot clipped the Bible Winters was clutching, sending pieces of it spraying like confetti in what some of the 150 onlookers thought at first was a skit. After Sedlacek's gun jammed, police say, he pulled out a knife and wrestled with two congregants who subdued him. All three were wounded.
None of Friday's speakers mentioned Sedlacek by name, instead casting the slaying as the work of Satan and the forces of evil. The theme: Channel the grief into greater spirituality. "You know what? I refuse to let Satan win," Cindy Winters told mourners, some of whom watched a video feed from a nearby gymnasium because the church was packed. "I'm not going to hate. And I'm not going to survive this thing. I'm going to be a better person because of this thing."
Referring to what authorities said was Sedlacek's calm walk down the aisle before opening fire, the Rev Bob Dickerson, a former minister at the church, told mourners: "I can't help but think the first thought Fred had just moments before this terrible deed was... 'here's somebody that can't wait to receive Jesus Christ and that's why he stepped out to greet him in those few moments."