After shooting standoff, a sermon of hope and love for community rocked by gun violence

Bishop Troy K. Grant delivers a sermon during the

Bishop Troy K. Grant delivers a sermon during the "Taking the Gospel 2 Da Streets" event in Nicetown-Tioga on Saturday, August 24, 2019. (Kriston Jae Bethel for WHYY)

As Pastor Troy K. Grant delivered a sermon on love Saturday, roughly 20 listeners clapped and swayed in the leafy shade at 20th and Ontario streets.

“God wants to love you, God wants to help you, God wants to bless you,” Grant said to the congregation.

Grant is the bishop of Oasis of Faith church at 17th and Venango streets — just a few blocks from last week’s shooting that left six Philadelphia Police officers injured. Maurice Hill has been charged with attempted murder and several other counts. 

For the last six years, Oasis of Faith has hosted its “Taking the Gospel 2 Da Streets” event to bring its message to the community outside of the church’s pews. After last week’s shootout, the sermons on Saturday were given in a new light — with a focus on hope, unity and healing.

Kids play basketball at the Jerome Brown Playground in Nicetown-Tioga on Saturday, August 24, 2019. (Kriston Jae Bethel for WHYY)

“When you have a situation like what happened in the last week and a half, it brings fear,” Grant said. “When you bring in fear, you deflate hope. I’m trying to keep hope inflated and not deflated. We are not going to be scared because of one man’s action — when we, the majority, has more power than one single individual’s actions.”

Lailah Allen, 15, dances a choreographed routine during the “Taking the Gospel 2 Da Streets” event in Nicetown-Tioga on Saturday, August 24, 2019. (Kriston Jae Bethel for WHYY)

In addition to the sermon, there was a barbecue and activities for children including a bounce house and carnival games across the street at Jerome Brown Playground. 

Dawn Buckner is a minister in training at Oasis of Faith. On the day of the shooting, she was leaving the church when she saw police cars zooming past. She saw how dire the situation was, with cops ducking and running from gunfire. 

Buckner says part of the church’s mission is to find ways to save people from gun violence. 

“[The church] is a refuge, it’s a go-to place, it’s a safe haven,” Buckner said. “The doors of the church are always open.”

She stressed that last week’s shooting should not be a defining characteristic for the Nicetown-Tioga neighborhood. 

District Councilmember Cindy Bass agrees.

“Good things are happening in this neighborhood,” Bass told the crowd. “Please don’t think that we can stay at home and wait for someone else to come and change our neighborhoods, we have to be the ones that come out…and reclaim our spaces.” 

Bass said Oasis of Faith has been a staple in the neighborhood for years. She said although the community is dealing with a lot of trauma while recovering from the shooting, events like these are reflections of hope and positivity.

“I’m not saying this neighborhood, Nicetown, or any neighborhood is perfect…but at the same time somebody brought something into this community and it’s very unfair because it is not a reflection of the people who have been here a very long time,” Bass said. 

Bass held an emergency community meeting last weekend at a nearby library. Many residents in attendance were concerned about the police’s aggressive response to the standoff and how nearby residents were impacted. She said staffers from her office will be stationed at 15th Street and Erie Avenue this week to help residents in need of support after the shooting. 

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