Worn Bible in hand, Georgetown Bishop Floyd Knowlin walked into Lighthouse of Jesus Christ Church’s sanctuary Sunday unsure of the words he would use to comfort his grieving congregation.
Funeral services have been set for the three Lighthouse of Jesus Christ Church members who died in a Wednesday car crash. All services will be held at the church at 159 Johnson Road in Georgetown.Melvira Johnson, 51, will be honored at 11 a.m. Tuesday.Edith Jackson, 55, will be honored at 3 p.m. Tuesday.Angie Arthur, 45, will be honored at 11 a.m. Wednesday.The families of the three women will hold private burials at family plots not at the church.For those who wish to reach out the families, cards, letters and other correspondance can be sent to Lighthouse of Jesus Christ Church, PO Box 2317, Charleston SC 29422.
The morning’s worship service was the first since a fiery crash claimed the lives of three of his church’s own just days before. Another member, the husband of one of the deceased, still lay at Medical University Hospital recovering from broken bones and a punctured liver.
The worshipers were traveling in a caravan to perform at a church service in Russellville when the wreck, which killed a fourth, occurred 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
If anything, Knowlin said, he wanted his church to walk away from the service with a renewed sense of hope. But with the shock of the tragedy still fresh in his mind, he said he’d only find the words to lead while in the moment.
Rain and wind churned outside the church’s doors, mirroring the chaos of grief expressed within at the loss of Edith Jackson, 55, Angie Arthur, 45, and Melvira Johnson, 51.
As of Friday, S.C. Highway Patrol officials said the cause of crash had not yet been determined.
Officials were waiting on the incident report to be completed, a process that they didn’t know how long would take.
Knowlin, who was traveling in the church van that was hauling musical instruments, said a passing car hit their trailer, which led to a five-car wreck. The three women who died were traveling in a sport utility vehicle that caught fire.
Church members placed a picture of each woman on a table draped with a white cloth, and lit three candles in their honor.
Friends and family blew out the flames at the end of the service, and tearfully reflected on their memory.
Two of Arthur’s daughters who were at the service chose not to speak, saying that they were still wrapping their minds around the situation. It is Arthur’s husband, Johnny, who is still in the hospital in critical condition.
All three women served faithfully on the women’s choir. They had prepared to sing Sunday evening in the group’s 10th anniversary concert.
The choir canceled the show, and chose instead to privately mourn the loss of their beloved sisters.
“I was so close to all three of them,” choir President Rose Walker said. “They were all loving women. A good group to be around, always.”
Samantha Rutledge credited Arthur as the reason she first joined the choir.
“She always made me feel welcome. She made me feel at home,” Rutledge said.
True to the women’s lives, much of Sunday’s service was spent singing praises.
Some cried silently to themselves in the midst of worship. Others wailed, and collapsed into the arms of their church brothers and sisters.
“We’re going to weather this storm,” Knowlin said. “The sun will shine again.”
Several visitors worshipped with the church after news of the tragedy spread.
Bonneau Police Chief Franco Fuda addressed the crowd, saying he felt led to stop by despite not being from Georgetown.
“I’ll have a friend in Georgetown by the time I leave today,” Fuda said.
Knowlin chose to give thanks rather than give into the rawness of the grief that filled the church.
He enthusiastically jumped into a pew and yelled for his congregation to anchor their souls in the Lord.
“Don’t mourn without hope,” Knolwin said. “I’ve got hope that they will live again.”
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC. Natalie Caula contributed to this report.