WINONA, Texas (KETK) – Just one year later after the tragic shooting, Starrville Methodist Church congregation members gathered to recall the day that their late pastor was killed.

“It was like slow-motion. You know, you couldn’t really believe what was happening,” said congregation member, Mike Sellers. A memorial was held in remembrance of Pastor Mark McWilliams.

On Jan. 2, 2021, Myrtez Woolen reportedly lead law officials on a chase when he drove onto Starrville Methodist Church property, wrecked the car, and then ran into the woods behind the church, leaving the shotgun behind, according to Smith County law enforcement.

According to Smith County law enforcement, Woolen was able to get inside the church by breaking out a window.

That morning on Jan. 3, 2021, McWilliams came across Woolen trying to hide in the back area of the church, according to Smith County law enforcement.

Woolen struggled with the pastor who had a gun and investigators say Woolen opened fire, killing the beloved pastor, according to Smith County law enforcement.  

During the incident, Sellars was told by the pastor to call 911 but ended up also being shot at and was shot six times.

On Sunday, Jan. 9 the one-year memorial service included songs of worship, prayer, and sharing memories of what McWilliams contributed to the church.

“Mark was a very caring, dynamic, and thorough preacher. He was just wonderful. You know, he was our leader! He was very energetic! You know, you wouldn’t have thought that he was in his 60’s… You would have thought he was in his 40s!” said Sellers.

Pastor Paul Bolding stepped up after the tragic incident to help serve the Starrville Methodist Church congregation in a time of need and shared that he was proud to be walking in healing with the church members.

“We love the people! I don’t know if it’s because of what happened but I’m sure it has something to do with it,” said Bolding. “Everyone just got really close. So it’s a very tight-knit group of people that either was here or came here because there was something special here that they wanted to be involved in.”

Starrville Methodist honored McWilliams by planting an October Glory Maple tree on the church property with the help of Breedlove Nursery.

The church has been active since 1852 and the community’s devotion keeps it going strong to this day.

“That last year on the 3rd was a very dark day. But all the people that were there that day- have already proven that God’s light overcomes the darkness and that can happen everywhere if you just get in with Jesus on the Light,” said Bolding.

The congregation has been walking together in healing, one day at a time.