Murder in a church backyard
‘No matter how close the darkness comes, we will never sell out’
By Bill Lewellis
[A young man was murdered behind Grace Allentown on August 10. It was Allentown's 13th homicide this year. Two Sundays later, parishioners of Grace processed to the spot of the killing to read God’s word and to recommit themselves to holding out
a corner of grace in a troubled neighborhood. Read a news release composed by the senior warden, an op by the rector, published in The Morning Call, the sermon preached by the rector, and the Aug. 25 news story in The Morning Call. Below is a story on the service and Grace Church in context.]
Jameel Clark, 20, predicted he would die. Two days before his
prediction came true, he fought with Roman, a Latin Kings gang member,
in a center city diner in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Roman told his
friend, Melvin Velazquez, 18, known as Trigger.
During the early morning hours of Sunday, August 10, Clark went to a
house behind Grace Episcopal Church to try to straighten things out
peacefully, according to friends who warned him not to go there because
friends of Roman might be nearby and might cause trouble. Clark was
more concerned that trouble might find him when he was with his
A witness said Clark and Velazquez fought outside the home. Clark
ripped a black-and-yellow bead necklace, a Latin King symbol, off
Velazquez’s neck. Velazquez pulled a handgun and shot Clark several
times on a bleak, macadam parking lot.
Last Sunday, two readers proclaimed a version of this responsively, at
the spot where Clark had been gunned down, the lot where Grace Church
builds an Easter fire to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The people of Grace Church processed to the spot where the killing took
place “in an endeavor to stand in solidarity with the good people of
their neighborhood,” according to Grace Church senior warden Libby
House, “and to pray for Jameel and others who have died violently in
this city, to read God’s word and to recommit themselves to holding out
a corner of grace in a troubled neighborhood.”
The killing was the 13th homicide in Allentown this year.