Topekans gather for prayer service in response to recent shootings

Pastor has connections to families of victims, perpetrator

A prayer meeting Wednesday evening drew congregants from at least 10 area churches who gathered in response to a rash of shootings that have left five people dead in the past week.


The event was organized by the Rev. T.D. Hicks, pastor of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, 1100 S.E. Washington.

Hicks said this week’s violence has propelled the community to come together to take back its streets and city through prayer.

“When you think about 2017, we’ve had 11 homicide cases in the city of Topeka,” Hicks said. “That’s 11 too many.”

The Rev. Tobias Schlingensiepen, pastor of First Congregational Church, said he has connections to families of victims and one perpetrator of the recent shootings.

He said there is a “full range of pain in the community.”

Prayer service at Antioch Baptist Church.

Wednesday’s prayer service provided an opportunity to build relationships for healing and reconciliation.

“I’m sad that we’re here,” Schlingensiepen said. “But I’m hopeful because we’re here.”

He also said it was important to recognize that people vote for officials who don’t want to put money toward services for veterans, mental health care and those struggling with poverty.

Attendee Deborah Dawkins said the recent violence was “a shock to the community. You get a little distressed.”

Jennifer Bowen described it as “heartbreaking” and “worrisome.”

The Rev. E.T. “Tom” Watson, of El Shaddai Ministries Community Church, said the past two shootings, which occurred near S.W. 28th and Gage and near S.W. 33rd and Oakley, show that gun violence isn’t an issue confined to East Topeka.

“This thing is all over the city,” Watson said. “The whole community feels the pain.”

Community activist Curtis Pitts echoed Watson’s thoughts.

“The community is hurting all over and trying to find a way to heal. This is a good first step,” Pitts said of the event.

The recent violence is prompting people to reach across denominational, racial and geographic lines.

“Pain has no color,” Hicks said.

Shampayne Lloyd said the presence of so many different churches was “awesome.” She added that everyone wants the same thing — for their families to be safe and to have opportunities to contribute.

Several Topeka police officers attended the service. Officer Clint Eubanks said it was nice to come together and have unity.

Local faith leaders led prayers for families affected by violence and for law enforcement. They also prayed about topics including mental health, community needs and economic empowerment.

Councilwoman Michelle De La Isla and Topeka Unified School District 501 superintendent Tiffany Anderson also attended the event.