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Gainesville pastor recalls slain Illinois preacher

POSTED: March 8, 2009 5:52 p.m.

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A pastor gunned down during a service at his Illinois church this morning "was just a great, humble guy who loved the Lord, his family and his church very much," said a Gainesville pastor who had known him since 2003.

The Rev. Fred Winters of First Baptist Church in Maryville and the Rev. Jon Beck of New Holland Baptist Church, which is off Jesse Jewell Parkway, met at a 2003 leadership conference in Indianapolis.

At the time, Winters was pastor at the church outside of St. Louis - he had served there for more than 20 years - and Beck led a church in Indiana.

"Our paths just continued to cross over the years and every time we were around each other at different meetings and different times, he was just a great encourager and a wonderful churchman," Beck said.

He recalled how, at one point, the two met at the Southern Baptist Convention and had lunch.

"We had developed a friendship from a pastoral standpoint," said Beck, who had spent nine years in Indiana.

The two last spoke about a year ago, and "we talked about church," he said.

Beck, a Barnesville native who has led New Holland since May, said the shooting "saddens your heart, but at the same time, makes you realize the frailty of life and the circumstances we live in today.

"... It makes me think, as a pastor, how easy something like that can happen."

Beck said he also "hurts for the family."

"We've talked about being a pastor and having a family in ministry, and how rewarding that can be at times and how tough it can be," he said. "And now, just to know, I had talked about these things with (Winters) over a meal."

Winters had two children and was the former president of the Illinois Baptist State Association, according to the church's Web site.




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