KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The East Knoxville community called for unity and healing at a prayer service with area pastors Tuesday night.
The church right next to Austin-East Magnet High School, Payne Avenue Missionary Baptist Church, hosted the service, more than a week after the shooting inside school walls.
The event started around 6 p.m. and over 50 people showed up to bow their heads and lift up blessing from the church parking lot.
Payne Avenue's pastor, Richard Brown, said after the success of the prayer service at Overcoming Believers Church last week, they wanted to keep the momentum going.
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"There is strength when we come together standing in our faith and calling on the name of our God," Brown said.
Brown feels confident that prayer and pouring into the East Knoxville community can invoke positive change.
"Last week we were under an intense dark cloud, and I think this evening, with the sun shining bright we are beginning to push that dark cloud back and allow the sunshine of God's love and peace to begin to prevail," Brown explained.
Pastors that took the mic called for unity and protection.
"What affects one ultimately affects us all, and we've got to come to understand that we need each other," Brown said.
Top of mind were the A-E students just a few steps away from the sanctuary. Those in the crowd lifted their hands, hoping for a community revival.
"There is so much destruction and Satan is so busy, that we just need unity," Payne Avenue Church member Andrea Howell said.
As the memorial grows for Anthony Thompson Jr. outside the school, Howell knows the pain all to well.
"It doesn't matter what the reason was, that's a mother that does not have her son. I lost my son in 2012 and it's painful," Howell nodded.
The group channeled the hurt into spiritual healing, and will continue to do so. Pastor Brown said they don't want Tuesday to be the last time everyone prays about the community.
There will be another prayer service Tuesday, April 27 at 6 p.m. It will be at Children of God Ministries church in Mechanicsville.
Family, friends and the Knoxville community will remember the 17-year-old this Thursday.
Thompson's funeral will begin with a public walkthrough at Overcoming Believers Church Thursday morning from 9 to 11:30 a.m.
Social distancing and face coverings are required.
A church service will follow, which will be livestreamed on Facebook.
Thompson will be buried at Mount Olive Cemetery, with a white dove release to follow.