The man they call Brother Darrell was at the heart of the church. He was the founder, and for years he served as the pastor, of its small but close congregation.
Now worshipers at New Harvest Free Will Baptist Church have to consider how to go on without him.
Just days after Darrell Morgan was shot and killed by Lancaster County sheriff’s deputies, a few congregants gathered at the small white church in the Tradesville community Sunday morning and tried to heal each others’ pain, make sense of what’s happened and what it means for their church family.
The Rev. Wayne Smith, a friend of Morgan’s, stepped in to lead Sunday’s service, the first in years without the man whose name still hangs over the front entrance to the sanctuary. Smith came to continue the message he felt Brother Darrell would want him to deliver.
“I’m planning to preach a message of hope,” Smith said, “Even in times of pain, God is still there in the storms.”
Emotions were raw for those who gathered for an early Sunday school class at the church, with members asking for privacy as they grieved the loss of their friend and spiritual mentor.
Smith asked that anything written about the pastor, in light of this week’s events, “cast Brother Darrell in a positive light.”
Morgan died Thursday, after sheriff’s deputies went to a corner store on U.S. 521 near Lancaster after receiving calls about a man with a gun. The 60-year-old pastor was shot and killed after he reportedly pointed a handgun at the officers during an apparent dispute with his wife.
The officers involved have been placed on leave while the State Law Enforcement Division investigates their use of deadly force. Attempts on Sunday to contact the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office or SLED were unsuccessful.
Those present at the church Sunday weren’t ready to consider what the future holds for New Harvest, instead leaning on each other for support. Lynn Mills, the church’s adult Sunday school teacher, said members spread across the county have been speaking with each other since the news of Morgan’s death broke, and many gathered at the church Friday evening to console each other.
New Harvest is itself like a small community. Sunday attendance averages between 15 and 30 people a week, with Brother Darrell at its heart.
“He was very loving, caring. He’d do anything in the world for you,” said one church member, identifying herself only as Teresa.
“I’ve just been sitting on my porch, and I can’t get him out of my head,” she said. When church members try to reconcile the violent end of the man they knew, “it’s hard for them to believe it.”
Despite the deep sense of loss they feel now, New Harvest hopes to keep the community Morgan built together.
“We’re going to keep it going as long as we can,” Teresa said.
Bristow Marchant • 803-329-4062