Memorial for Fla. Southern Baptist pastor involved in triple murder

by Joni B. Hannigan , Editorial Staff |

James "Tripp" Battle Family, James and Joy Tripp, (back row), Sophie and Joshua.

BRADENTON, Fla. (Christian Examiner) --Tonight the Bradenton community will gather with family and friends of James "Tripp" Battle III at First Baptist Church of Bradenton, miles from where the popular pastor of Bayshore Baptist was shot and killed Dec. 4.

They will remember Battle as the husband of wife Joy, who Sunday, at Bayshore Baptist Church, bravely stood before them and told them the best way she can honor her husband is to "carry on and keep on."

"You can silence the voice, but you can't silence the song," Joy Battle said, in a story reported in the Bradenton Herald. "You can bury the horse but the work will go on. I will grieve the rest of my days, but I will stay together because I know Jesus. He is the song and the work."

Only three days after her husband was killed in the church courtyard after she alerted him to the presence of Andres "Andy" Avalos – who after a 3-day manhunt confessed to murdering the pastor and to brutally murdering his wife and a neighbor -- Joy Battle pulled herself together to attend worship.

James "Tripp' Battle, 31

Andres "Andy" Avalos was charged with 3 counts of second-degree murder at his first court appearance 8 a.m. Sunday, according to news reports. He pled not guilty to murdering the pastor, his wife, Amber Avalos, and a neighbor, Denise Potter.

"I loved my husband dearly and I will grieve him for the rest of my days," Joy Battle told about 350 members of the congregation and guests during what can be seen on news video as an emotional service.

The family is receiving friends tonight from 6-8 p.m. in the worship center at First Baptist Bradenton, and a celebration of life is set for Friday, Dec. 12 at 6 p.m. also in the worship center at First Baptist Church in Bradenton.

Tripp Battle is survived by his wife, Joy, his children; Sophie and Joshua; parents; Jimmy and Rhonda Battle Jr. of Bradenton, sister, Ashley Battle of Bradenton, and maternal grandparents; Ed and Alice Romine of Bradenton; and parents-in-law; Rev. Keith and Rhonda Johnson of Miami, FL, maternal grandparents-in-law; Ron and Jackie King of Marion, OH and many extended family members.

The family request that in lieu of flowers that memorials be made to the Tripp Battle Memorial Trust for his wife and children, c/o Greene, Hamrick, Quinlan & Shermer, P.A., 601 12th St. W., Bradenton, Fl. 34205 in his memory. Condolences for the family may be made online at www.shannonfuneralhomes.com.

A memorial service will be held for Amber Avalos Dec. 13 at 11 a.m. at the Bridge Church in Bradenton. Family members of Denise Potter are holding a private service in her honor.

Last week after hearing of the tragedy, area Southern Baptist leader Ken Whitten, senior pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, told Christian Examiner it would be hard to approach such a tragedy without being united in prayer.

""What makes this so tragic is the one who is so needed to minister to the family is one of the victims of this dark tragedy," he continued. "Left behind are broken hearts, broken families, unanswered questions and a world looking on with great confusion."

Speaking to the victims' families and members of Bayshore Baptist, Whitten expressed "prayers and heartfelt condolences."

"In the body of Christ when one of our members hurt, we all hurt," he said. "Our hearts are broken and we stand ready to help in any way this great church needs help."

"One thing all of us can do is pray," Whitten said. "Even our Lord said in John 12: 27, 'Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say, ... Father glorify your name.' When we don't know what to say, we can always pray, 'Father, glorify your name.'"