By Jessica Brodie
ROCK HILL—One church opened its arms to the entire Rock Hill community after a mass shooting claimed the lives of a much-loved local physician, his wife and two young grandchildren, and two air conditioning technicians who happened to be working on their home at the time.
Police say former NFL player Phillip Adams went to the home of Dr. Robert Lesslie and opened fire on everyone there, then retreated to his home a half-mile away, where he later shot himself. There were no survivors. While air technician Robert Shook survived the initial attack, Shook later also died at the hospital from his injuries. In addition to Lesslie, Adams and Shook, also killed were Lesslie’s wife, Barbara Lesslie; grandchildren Adah, 9, and Noah, 5; and air conditioning technician James Lewis.
Many in the community were left reeling from the news, which shattered the hearts of those who knew the Lesslie family and grieved the tragedy and its victims.
s a way to show Christ’s love and compassion to those affected, India Hook United Methodist Church opened its doors April 11 for a public prayer vigil, plus livestreamed the vigil on Facebook so people could attend virtually.
Kendall Farnum, program director at India Hook UMC, said the church wanted to do something quickly to reach out to people in their grief.
The service was opened by the Rev. Michael Walker, India Hook pastor, who welcomed all to the gathering.
“We hope this service is a sense of solace for you and a sense of peace that you can find in the midst of the violent world in which we tend to live,” Walker said to all gathered.
Rock Hill District Superintendent Dr. Anthony Hodge led the congregation in collective prayer, noting that while all the answers about what happened are not clear, God’s people can come together in prayer and look to God for help and comfort.
Farnum shared a painting by artist Jan Richardson, “Holy Even in Pain,” and Richardson’s poem, “Blessing in a Time of Violence.” Richardson, a United Methodist elder, uses art and poetry in her ministry.
Walker then brought a word from Isaiah 2:1-4 and John 1:1-5, also reading “Our Call to End Gun Violence” from the United Methodist Book of Resolutions. He called for the community to be in prayer for the families affected, as well as for the end of gun violence.
“Something needs to change,” Walker said at the vigil. “As kingdom people, let us be in prayer for all the victims of gun violence, and let us strive to find ways we can make a difference in the name of Jesus Christ.”
South Carolina Resident Bishop L. Jonathan Holston also spoke at the vigil.
“We surround in prayer the family, friends and loved ones of all whose lives were lost, and we cry out to God to surround each and every person affected with comfort, healing and peace,” Holston said in his statement on the conference website, www.umcsc.org. “As United Methodists committed to social justice and opposed to gun violence, we mourn the members of our own community who have become the victims of such gun violence. In our mourning and grief, let us stand up, and with unified voices, shout: This must end. And then, let’s work together in our churches and our communities to do something about the reality of gun violence in our midst. It doesn’t have to be this way.
“As we each determine what our next faithful step should be, may our actions toward peace and reconciliation be a witness to our resurrected Savior, Jesus Christ, who has defeated evil and conquered death.”
India Hook member Chris Sims was also at the vigil with his wife, Teresa.
“Our prayer is that time and the good Lord will give us the peace we are looking for,” Sims said.
Farnum said India Hook UMC invites United Methodists everywhere to be in prayer for grieving families, wisdom in dealing with gun violence in our nation and courage to seek justice for all persons.
To view the service, visit https://www.facebook.com/IHUMC/videos/281880680070956.
Kendall Farnum and Dan O’Mara helped with the story.