A Sudanese immigrant admitted to opening fire on the church congregation at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, near Nashville.
Emanuel Kidega Samson, of La Vergne, told police during an interview that he "fired upon the church building" after arriving there with a handgun on Sept. 24, the Tennesean reported.
Samson, 25, killed one parishioner and seriously injured seven, according to a police affidavit ahead of his first court appearance.
He has been charged with one count of murder and is being held at a county jail without bail.
Police are still searching for a motive.
Samson reportedly posted several cryptic messages on his Facebook page in the days before the attack.
Under a of photo of him lifting weights are the words "unrestricted paroxysm," which the Oxford Dictionary defines as a "sudden attack or outburst of a particular emotion or activity underneath."
In a separate post, he wrote: "Everything you've ever doubted or made to be believe as false, is real. & vice versa, B."
"Become the creator instead of what's created," said another post. "What you say, goes."
Samson was armed with a .40-caliber handgun and a 9 mm handgun when he entered the church in Antioch. Police said he also had an unloaded semi-automatic AR-15 rifle, as well as another handgun, but found no ammunition for the rifle.
According to authorities, Samson was previously employed as a licensed unarmed security guard, and took a class to renew that license only two days before the shooting.
Witnesses told police they heard gunshots from the church's parking lot moments after Samson entered the building.
The pastor, David "Joey" Spann, shouted "Run, run, gunshots!" and congregants hid under pews or in bathrooms, according to a witness.
Samson entered the church from the back after fatally shooting a woman outside, police said. He then reportedly walked through the church silently, shooting six more people before an usher subdued him.
Police say they later recovered another pistol and a shotgun from the suspect's vehicle.
Church member Minerva Rosa said the scripture reading that day had been from Luke, Chapter 8, and she recalled the verse about a woman who touched Jesus and was cured of bleeding.
The King James Version of that scripture reads:
And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any,
Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.
Ironically, by the end of the shooting, Rosa was putting pressure on a gunshot wound in the pastor's chest, trying to stop the bleeding.
Another church member, 22-year-old usher Robert Engle, tackled Samson, then retrieved his own gun from his car and held Samson at gunpoint until police arrived.
"He's amazing," Rosa told reporters of Engle. "Without him I think it could be worse. He was the hero today."
"The real heroes are the police, first responders and medical staff and doctors who have helped me and everyone affected," Engle said in a statement.
He then asked for prayers for all those injured, as well as for the shooter.
Melanie Smith, 39, of Smyrna, Tennessee, was killed in the shooting.
Those suffering nonfatal shots were: William and Marlene Jenkins, Linda Bush, Katherine Dickerson and Spann's wife, Peggy. Police said none of them had life-threatening injuries.
Metropolitan Nashville Mayor Megan Berry issued the following statement:
This is a terrible tragedy for our city. My heart aches for the family and friends of the deceased as well as for the wounded victims and their loved ones. Their lives have been forever changed, as has the life of their faith community at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ. My administration, especially the Metro Nashville Police Department, will continue to work with community members to stop crime before it starts, encourage peaceful conflict resolution, and promote non-violence.