Shock and sorrow gave way Monday night to thanksgiving and spiritual joy as about 1,000 members of Nations Ford Community Church sang, danced and prayed at a vigil honoring the memory of their senior pastor, Bishop Phillip Davis, who died Saturday from what authorities say was an accidental gunshot wound.
Davis “would want us to be glad,” the Rev. Michael Figgers, one of the church’s ministers, told those who filled the sanctuary. “He would want us to rejoice that now he is in the bosom of God.”
Just last week, the Southern Baptist congregation marked Founders Week with nightly celebrations of Davis and wife Cynthia, a pastor at the church, who started Nations Ford 36 years ago. The church also feted the couple for their 42nd wedding anniversary and Davis for his 62nd birthday.
Then, on the eve of what was to have been a Sunday morning culmination of all the festive doings, news came that Davis was found dead inside his home in Weddington.
The Union County Sheriff’s Office said Davis was apparently cleaning his pistol when it accidentally fired, with the bullet striking him in the chest. Shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday, his wife found him collapsed at his desk. She called 911 and attempted to administer CPR.
“The investigation revealed no signs of foul play,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement. “The evidence confirms this was, in fact, an accidental death.”
Worshipers at the church Sunday morning hugged each other, and wept as photos of Davis flashed on the two screens in the sanctuary.
Monday night, the images of Davis – preaching, baptizing and working with children – were back. But the mood had lifted, as members recalled with gratitude the biblical lessons they learned from Davis and called on God – in song and prayer – to give them strength and faith in an eternal reward for them and for their pastor.
“Even when it seems like the light is dim,” the Rev. Kevin Butler preached, “we have victory in you, O God.”
Davis had a high profile in Charlotte’s faith community, most recently heading up several community conversations before the opening of the trial of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick, who was charged in the death of Jonathan Ferrell, a 24-year-old unarmed black man.
The church’s parking lot was packed Monday night. Only the spaces that had been reserved every day for Davis and his wife were empty.
Davis will lie in state at the church, 5910 Nations Ford Road, on Friday from 4-6:30 p.m., with a memorial service immediately following.
Then on Saturday, a Home Going Celebration will be held at Calvary Church, 5801 Pineville-Matthews Road. Visitation will be at 10 a.m., the celebration at 11 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, the Davis family has asked that contributions go to the church’s Male Leadership Academy, a Christian school Davis started three years ago for boys in kindergarten through fifth grade.