‘Prayer is powerful’: Community mourns loss of church members

Community mourns loss of church members

BLACKSTONE, VA (WWBT) - The Blackstone community is mourning the deaths of four Shiloh Baptist Church members after a serious accident in Dinwiddie Tuesday.

Virginia State Police have identified the men and women, aging from 36 to 87 years old who died after police said a pickup-truck towing a trailer rear-ended the church van on Route 460 just before 7 p.m. Tuesday.

They’ve been identified as James Farley, 87; Wartena Somerville, 36; Delois Williams, 72; and Constance Wynn, 85, all of Blackstone.

Seven other men and women in the Shiloh Baptist Church van were taken to VCU and area hospitals with serious to life-threatening injuries.

Charges are pending with the Commonwealth’s Attorney against the truck driver Robert Allen, 47, of Norfolk.

The accident has been on the minds of many people in the community Wednesday, including the women who work at the church. As the community grieves, church members are also receiving an outpouring of support from people in the area.

"Prayer is powerful,” said Lawrence Jones, who knows the victims. “Very powerful.” Prayers have been offered up all night and day since the freak accident on Route 460.

It will once again happen Thursday at 6 p.m. as Spring Hill Baptist Church holds a prayer vigil at Nottoway Middle School to lift up the community and the families of the victims in the crash.

“To lose one person is difficult but to lose four members at one time… I can only imagine what the church is going through right now,” said Spring Hill Baptist Church Pastor Rev. Travis Warren. “It’s just a sincere desire to do whatever we can and offer whatever help we can to Shiloh Baptist Church.”

As drivers pass by Shiloh Baptist Church in Blackstone they can't help but notice the memorial that's started to grow outside.

"It hurts,” Jones said. “It really hurts. But prayer changes things - it will strengthen you in other ways this week."

Jones knew the men and women inside the church van heading to Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Dinwiddie for revival.

"Even going to a church, God hears your prayers everywhere,” Jones said. “When you're going there for a function, and even before you get to the function something like this happens, it takes a lot of out anybody, even if they've got faith, it takes a lot out of them."

He said the impact from this crash can be felt all across Blackstone and beyond to neighboring counties.

"A lot of the people in that accident come to the local restaurants and we talk and laugh and now you're not going to see them anymore," Jones said.

"Corinthians tells us if one hurt then we all hurt,” Warren added. “So, at this time that's when our faith comes in and it also reminds us that we should be there to comfort one another."

But, through flowers and other gifts dropped off at Shiloh Baptist, the people from the community are doing what they can to help support the church during this difficult time.

"We definitely want to help aid in the healing process," Warren said

"Forget about everything else,” Jones said. “Focus on it could have been you, it could have been me. Just to support them in every angle because there's a lot of pain right now."

According to Warren, Rev. Benjamin Brown, Jr., the Pastor of Shiloh Baptist, spent most of Tuesday night and Wednesday visiting the victims in hospitals.

State Police said there were a total of 11 adult men and women in the van, including the driver. Three are still being treated at VCU Medical Center in Richmond for life-threatening injuries. Four others were transported from the scene Tuesday evening to nearby hospitals for treatment of serious injuries.

The investigation is ongoing.

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