Inside New Hope Baptist church a congregation gathers to mourn. Their pastor, a self-proclaimed anti-violence advocate, John Raphael has passed away. The 60-year-old lost his battle with cancer.
“He was always humble, always caring, always giving, great sense of humor,” says his sister Aurora Carter, “He told the church the last time he was here: either way it goes he couldn’t lose. It was a win, win situation. His illness was very aggressive, unexpectedly to all of us.”
Raphael began his career fighting crime as an NOPD officer, but he’s best remembered for spreading his messages of peace as pastor.
NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas remembers, “He started with us in 1973 and then when he moved on to be a pastor. He just went to another place serve. He served in another way.”
New Hope Chairman Arthur Garrett says, “He has been going through the community on foot, everybody going in one direction, he’s over touching lives and talking to people in another direction.”
Pastor Raphael is responsible for the “Thou shalt not kill” and “Enough” signs seen throughout the city.
“He says enough is enough. He was just tired of it, everybody was, and we had another sign: we care,” says New Hope member Mabel Wilson.
His congregation remembers him as a shoulder to lean on, consoling families struck by violence and even mentoring Mayor Mitch Landrieu who says, “Whether he was preaching on the corner, fasting for days on MLK, mentoring young people, or challenging us to do more to end death and violence on our streets, Pastor Raphael was consistent and responsible in challenging us all to do our part to reflect the love of God and improve our city.”
Now as the congregation mourns they also rejoice reflecting on the impact he has made and hoping his message continues to make waves throughout the city.
Pastor Raphael was only 60 years old. Few people knew he was sick. He was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer only six months ago.
His funeral is set for next week. Services are on Tuesday at 7pm and Wednesday at 11am.