In church services, local police, residents seek healing after violence

ELKINS PARK, Pa. (WPVI) -- At the African Episcopal Church of Saint Thomas in the Overbrook section of Philadelphia, the lives of two black men killed by police officers, and five Dallas police officers were remembered Sunday with prayers and candles.

Among the faithful was Philadelphia Police Capt. Joseph Bologna, and two other officers from the 19th District.

"If we don't mourn together, then we can't heal together," said Bologna.

They prayed with congregants after a week of violence and protests in hopes of building better relationships.

"We want to mourn all, but come together as a community. And continue to build trust as we've been doing, especially in this district, over the last four-plus years," said Bologna.

The healing continued in Elkins Park at LaMott AME Church.

Cheltenham Police Officer Jason Thompson received a standing ovation from the African American Church community during a unity service.

Church leaders say they hope it will eliminate some of the fear they say leads to violence.

"Some of our congregants are really afraid of the police. And we are fully aware that they're afraid because those two black men were killed," said the Rev. Dr. Louis Attles, pastor of LaMott AME Church.

Church members say they'd like to see more positive interactions between the police and the community like this - especially to show young people that police officers are more than the uniform they wear.

"A lot of young people just need to see the good side of police officers. And if they can start seeing that at a young age, that'll help change their attitudes," said Ray Miller of Elkins Park.

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A unity service was held in Elkins Park, Montgomery County.

"It's going to take the church. It's going to take the community. It's going to take the police officers. And the equal thing of it all, it's going to take love. Love will conquer hate anytime," retired Philadelphia police officer Richard Safford said.

The services followed four days of protests in Philadelphia after deadly shootings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, St. Paul, Minnesota, and Dallas, Texas.

"Sometimes it's really hard to serve people when you don't feel you are appreciated by them, so as a nation we need to make sure our police officers really know that we care about them," Attles said.
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