Former Covenant Presbyterian Church Pastor Grieves, Prays for Church He Served for 25 Years

Pastor Jim Bachmann remembers the early, intimate days of the new Covenant Presbyterian Church in the early 1990s. A few dozen souls with a love of Christ and a thirst to grow in faith gathering at a small venue.

That little congregation has grown into a thriving, evangelical church of some 1,400 parishioners in the southern hills of Nashville since Bachmann (pictured above) took the lead preacher post in 1991. He served as pastor until 2016.

“I was up there 25 years as part of that church. It was a paradise,” said Bachmann, who now serves as pastor of Nashville’s Stephens Valley Church.

Today, the pastor grieves and prays for the church he helped found more than 30 years ago.

Paradise was upended by tragedy on the morning of March 27, when Audrey Elizabeth Hale stormed into the Covenant Presbyterian School and murdered three 9-year-old students and three staff members before being fatally shot by police.

“I feel helpless. You want to help and serve and be Superman and spin the world backwards and stop time, but we just live in a dangerous world and it’s a fallen world,” Bachmann told The Tennessee Star in an interview this week.

He lost one of his own parishioners and a dear friend on that day. Mike Hill was a custodian at the private elementary school. He was among three adults killed on that nightmarish morning. Hill was 61.

He was known as “Big Mike” to his pastor and fellow congregants at Stephens Valley Church.

“He was big, and he was strong, and he was tough,” Bachmann said in his sermon at Hill’s funeral services. “But he was also soft and tender.”

“He hugged my kids and he hugged your kids, and he knew them by name,” the pastor said. “As the first victim, maybe this is a sentimental thought, but it’s a comfort to me to think that Mike was there to welcome the children through the pearly gates.”

Bachmann said his heart is broken for Covenant Presbyterian Pastor Chad Scruggs, whose youngest child and only daughter, Hallie, was among the murdered in the mass shooting.

In his first sermon last month since the deadly assault, Scruggs said he and his family have struggled with answering the simple yet complicated question, “How are you doing?”

“[W]e just don’t know how to answer it yet,” he said. “We’re doing not well; kind of searching for a new baseline in life right now.”

Bachmann said he feels great empathy for all who are suffering in the wake of the senseless shootings, including Hale’s parents, Norma and Ronald Hale. He said he met them years ago when their daughter was a student at the Christian school. Audrey Hale attended Covenant Presbyterian with Bachmann’s son, who was a grade ahead of her, the pastor said. Bachmann’s wife served as a substitute teacher at the school and taught Hale.

The Hales were not members of the church.

Bachmann said he does not recall any concerns or red flags with Audrey Hale’s conduct or behavior, and he’s not sure he would have noticed at the time. Although located on the same campus, the church and the school were separate entities.

There’s been a lot of speculation surrounding Hale’s motivation. The 28-year-old woman identified as a transgender male and before the shootings had used the name “Aiden.”

Reports suggest Audrey Hale’s devout Christian parents “couldn’t accept” that she was gay and transgender. A “well-placed source” told the Daily Mail that Audrey Hale’s parents refused to let their daughter dress like a man in their home, where Audrey Hale resided at the time of the mass shootings.

“The 28-year-old loner would instead wait until she left their $700,000 Nashville property to change outfits, according to a well-placed source,” the publication reported. 

Metropolitan Nashville Police Department Chief John Drake told CBS News that Audrey Hale had planned to carry out more attacks, including against her family. 

“We’ve talked to the father and the mother. We searched the home and found two more weapons there and some more maps, pertaining to thinking about some other incidents,” the chief said. “We strongly believe there were going to be some other targets, including family members, and one of the malls here in Nashville and it just did not happen.”

Audrey Hale reportedly kept voluminous journals and other writings referred to as her manifesto. MNPD has refused to make those records public. The Tennessee Star and other organizations have sued Metro Nashville, demanding the release of the manifesto and seeking a Davidson County court ruling that the police department has violated the Tennessee Public Records Act in its refusal to release the information. The church, the school, and parents of Covenant School students have asked Davidson County Chancellor I’Ashea Myles to keep the Covenant killer’s manifesto and related documents locked from public view. 

Metro Nashville officials argue they cannot release the manifesto and related writings because there is an ongoing criminal proceeding in place. 

But police have said they believe Audrey Hale acted alone. 

“I don’t know what there is to investigate,” Bachmann said.

Still, the pastor said he has “profound respect for the parents,” adding that he’s sure they have “some very good reasons” why they do not want the writings released. One Covenant School parent this week told The Tennessee Star that family members don’t want to relive the trauma that the release of the manifesto could invite. 

Bachmann said his adult daughter is friends with the parents of one of the young victims. 

“We’ve got to respect the trauma,” Bachmann said, “but I can see where the general public has an interest in finding out what was going on in this girl’s mind.”

“I’m glad I don’ have to make those decisions,” the pastor said. 

At 68, Bachmann says he’s in the twilight of his pastoral mission. But the 25 years he spent leading the flock at Covenant Presbyterian Church greatly defined his life. 

“I love those people. I love the church,” he said. “They deserve our love and support.”

“I wish there was a way we could make sure something like this could never happen again. But we live in a world where things go wrong.”

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M.D. Kittle is the National Political Editor for The Star News Network.
Photo “Jim Bachmann” by Stephens Valley Church. Background Photo “The Covenant School” by The Covenant School.



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2 Thoughts to “Former Covenant Presbyterian Church Pastor Grieves, Prays for Church He Served for 25 Years”

  1. Horatio Bunce

    Thanks for the report tying down some of the timeline Hale was actually at Covenant.

    “Bachmann said he does not recall any concerns or red flags with Audrey Hale’s conduct or behavior, and he’s not sure he would have noticed at the time. Although located on the same campus, the church and the school were separate entities.”

    So more than 10 years ago, Hale was a student there and nothing remarkable happened (although, the ecclesiastical tyranny, hiding a leadership child molester and making a false accusation against the whistle-blower to MNPD was occurring in Bachmann’s paradise in that same period). The current students with the possible exception of juniors or seniors, (and assuming they were enrolled as K-1st grade students back then) could not have interacted with Hale at the school. I fail to see any reason that Covenant parents need to hide Hale’s writings (that they don’t know what is contained within) in regard to their children. Why cover for the murderer of your family members?

  2. CCW

    Give up trying to get to the bottom of why she (it) did it. I could have predicted this would happen when the FIB came to town.

    Same thing happened with the CCP balloon wreckage off the U.S. east coast. It was leaked that approx. two box car loads of stuff was brought up. Here we are again, FIB takes control and we the people of USA will never know what was going on.

    We see the FIB real intent being exposed in the present House hearing on FIB and Cross-fire Hurricane. The FIB is a member of the U.S. Democrat Party, ie. the Deep State, and will always act in their behalf. They have assumed the position of the almighty U.S. Federal Police Force, and will not relinquish it without serious reconstruction of that institution.

    This is a real shame!