New Orleans religious and civic leaders were among mourners at the funeral Wednesday for Pastor John Raphael of the New Hope Baptist Church. He died from cancer June 25. Many wondered who could fill the void left by the minister who was dedicated to stopping violence in the city.
The Mahalia Jackson Theatre was filled with people praising Pastor Raphael.
Religious leaders from throughout the Southern states hailed his international ministry work in Africa, Haiti and other countries.
But New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu talked of how Raphael’s passing affects the entire city.
“He walked the walk and he talked the talk, but now there is a void where he stood,” Landrieu said.
A former police officer, Raphael responded to murder scenes, comforting families. He worked with city leaders to end the killings.
And he often held a fasting vigil at the Martin Luther King memorial on South Claiborne Avenue — about six blocks from his Central City church — to call attention to the crime problem.
New Hope member Gloria Cooper says it’s not clear who can take over.
“I wish that someone would be able to not take his place, because everybody has a own place of his own, but to teach others to do better in life,” she said.
Another church member, Rosemarie Mitchell, says many are needed to stop violence.
“It will take the city to step in and say, ‘Okay, we collectively need to do this.’ Not because Pastor Raphael, God bless the dead, did this, simply because it’s the right thing to do. And this is the need of the city.”
Former LSU football player Raion Hill, who also played for the Buffalo Bills, says his life was enhanced by the pastor.
“Being around powerful black men, with positivity, I think that’s kind of helped me and influenced me to want to kind of follow, so I’ll try to help out as much as I can and do my service.
Prayers were said at the service to help the church committee in its search for a new pastor.