A suspect is in custody
Police said an 84-year-old Irondale man, Walter Rainey, died at the scene. A 75-year-old Pelham woman, Sarah Yeager, died at UAB Hospital. An 84-year-old Hoover woman was injured in the shooting and remains in the hospital.
Vestavia Hills police said the suspect, a 71-year-old man, was an occasional attendee of the church.
Authorities said the suspect was subdued by another churchgoer until officers arrived on scene to take him into custody.
The Rev. Rebecca Bridges, the church’s associate rector, led an online prayer service on the church’s Facebook page Friday morning. She prayed not only for the victims and church members who witnessed the shooting, but also “for the person who perpetrated the shooting.”
“We pray that you will work in that person’s heart,” Bridges said. “And we pray that you will help us to forgive.”
Bridges, who is currently in London, alluded to other recent mass shootings as she prayed that elected officials in Washington and Alabama “will see what has happened at St. Stephens and Uvalde and Buffalo and in so many other places and their hearts will be changed, minds will be opened.”
Vestancia Hills, Alabama — “From what we’ve gathered from the circumstances of this evening, a lone suspect entered a small group church meeting and began shooting,” Vestavia Hills police Capt. Shane Ware said.
Kelley Hudlow, missioner for clergy formation for the diocese, said “We are praying for everyone that is involved.”
The church rector, the Rev. John Burruss, asked for prayers. “That is what we do as people of faith: We come together in the midst of life and death,” he said.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said she was praying for the victims and community. “We want to offer our prayers for the victim’s family, the injured and the entire church community,” Ivey said. “I am glad to hear the shooter is in custody. This should never happen — in a church, in a store, in the city or anywhere.”
The Rev Kelley Hudlow, an episcopal priest in the diocese of Alabama, told broadcast outlet WBRC that the church and the community were stunned by the shooting.
“It is shocking. St Stephen’s is a communty built on love and prayers and grace and they are going to come together,” she said. “People of all faiths are coming together to pray to hope for healing.”
According to the church’s website, there was a potluck scheduled between 5 and 7 p.m. Thursday. Rev. Kelley Hudlow, who works in the office of Bishop Glenda Curry of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, told local station WVTM-13 that they are asking the community to come together in support of the victims and their loved ones.
“We’re Episcopalians; we believe in Jesus and we believe that prayer helps,” Hudlow said. “Currently we are praying for healing and safety for all those that have been impacted and affected.”