Mourning church prays for gospel singer pastor

July 6, 2008 9:02:40 PM PDT
In the midst of mourning, members of the congregation led by gospel singer Timothy Wright raised their voices in praise and remembrance on Sunday, praying for their pastor's recovery and grieving the deaths of his wife and grandson in a head-on car crash. Congregants at the Grace Tabernacle Christian Center refused to be bowed by sorrow following the crash, which critically injured the Grammy-nominated Rev. Wright and killed co-pastor Betty Wright and their 14-year-old grandson. Women in Sunday white and men in dark suits pounded their feet and sang joyful gospel tunes, forgoing solemnity to praise God and share memories of the Wright family.

"We honor the Lord for his goodness and his kindness. We say, in spite of everything: God is still good," the Rev. Frank Williams told the crowd.

Timothy Wright, the church's 61-year-old founder, was in critical condition, but speakers at the services reassured congregants that he was conscious and led them in fervent prayers for his health.

"He shall live," Williams said. "He has impacted too many people. He has paid some of our rents when he couldn't even pay his own."

Williams recalled Betty Wright's sharp sense of humor and strength, calling the 58-year-old "the most powerful, phenomenal woman."

"Their blood and sweat are in the walls," he said of the Wrights and the Pentecostal church, located in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.

After congregants held hands in prayer, leaders called all former members of the choir forward to join the current group of singers. Amid the pews, tearful churchgoers danced and clapped along with the songs. One woman, bent and sobbing, had to be led from the room.

Along with the N.Y. Fellowship Mass Choir, Timothy Wright was nominated for a Grammy award for best traditional soul gospel album for 1994's "Come Thou Almighty King." He has released more than a dozen gospel recordings, including "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus," which came out last year.

The Wrights, who have five sons, were returning from a Church of God in Christ conference in Detroit when their vehicle was struck Friday, said Leroy Johnson, a trustee at Grace Tabernacle. Their grandson D.J. Wright died the next night, according to a nursing supervisor at a hospital in Danville, Pa.

The Pennsylvania crash also killed 44-year-old Lewisburg, Pa., resident John Pick, who drove the wrong way on eastbound Interstate 80 into the Wrights' vehicle, police said. The crash was being investigated.

It was a sudden tragedy for members of the Brooklyn church, where on Sunday morning white-clad ushers handed out programs, apparently printed before the accident, that still listed Timothy Wright as the scheduled speaker. The pamphlet also said, "Program subject to change by order of the Holy Spirit."

At Sunday's service, the Rev. Willy Robinson sought to comfort congregants.

"I'm not going to tell you don't cry ... I've been crying," he said. "You're going to feel bad for a while, but God's going to bring you through.

"We're going to see her and them again."


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