“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that
.” - Martin Luther King Jr.
On a crisp, bright sunshine-filled Wednesday afternoon, darkness and hatred descended on a Kroger grocery store in Jeffersontown, Kentucky. Two shoppers, 69-year-old Maurice Stallard and 67-year-old Vickie Jones, going about the everyday task of picking up groceries, were killed in a random act of senseless gun violence.
On Friday, in the still of a dark, cold, rainy morning, the store reopened and River City United Methodist Church members were there to greet returning employees and customers with warm smiles, hot coffee and doughnuts.
River City, a regional campus of St. Matthews UMC that started worship services in 2015, sits within a half-mile of where the shootings happened.
“This is right in our backyard, and the most important thing the church can do, I think, is love on each other and be out in our community,” said Courtney Kellner, a member of River City.
“This is a way for us to get out and show some love to people and be there for our community after something so tragic,” said Kellner, who is also the Kentucky Annual Conference’s chancellor.
Throughout the morning, a steady stream of customers and employees came in and out of the store, some stopping to get coffee and doughnuts, some just acknowledging the church members with a nod or a smile.
“We’ve seen a lot of people being very thankful, we’ve seen people tear up and just come thank us for being here,” said Hannah Bryant, youth and children’s minister at River City. “Also people
are just like, ‘Oh, doughnuts and coffee.’ Definitely positive reactions.”
The idea for this act of kindness came from the private Facebook page where River City shares prayer concerns and ministry ideas. Kellner said she posted late Thursday asking if there was
anything the church could do to help with the healing process, and she said her fellow congregation members “answered with a vengeance.”
By later that night, Starbucks had offered to donate coffee and members of the church had donated funds to buy the doughnuts. By 6:45 Friday morning, church members were in the Kroger parking lot ready to greet all that came.
“It’s amazing how quickly it all came together,” Kellner said.