Pastor David McWilliams is the pastor of the Del Ray United Methodist Church. The church sits eight blocks from where a gunman opened fire on the Republican practice for the annual Congressional Baseball Game. He had just arrived home from a morning run when his phone was flooded with texts messages asking if he was ok. McWilliams was shocked when he learned about the incident.
“We are blessed every morning through our prayer group at church and I realized that many were in shock and I thought how can we do that for the whole community?”
For McWilliams, It was important that the event didn’t take place in church but in a public space. The city of Alexandria granted access to the George Washington Middle School. McWilliams called on his children’s director and office manager to solicit participation.
“I told them if you can think of a church, just call them,” explains McWilliams.
They called twenty-five churches in thirty minutes. Pastors from three churches and representatives from two others joined the event including the Beverley Hills Community Methodist Church; Jim Driscoll Army chaplain for the Pentagon and Bron Jacobs, senior pastor for Community Praise Church in Alexandria, Virginia. Jacobs agreed and sent out rapid communication encouraging all members to attend the service. Pastor Jacobs participated by praying and offering words of encouragement. Eighty people attended with a third of those present from Community Praise Church.
The service recognized a great darkness but proclaimed a greater light. A few scriptures were read, words of encouragement shared and in closing the group sang “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”
As participants left they wrote their thoughts on a 20 foot long prayer bulletin paper and lined the streets for one-fourth of a mile with electronic candles.
When it was over, there was a sense of confirmation. One local resident told McWilliams, “We knew we had to do something but we didn’t know what to do.” It was the right time to share thoughts and encourage each other.