The 9:45 a.m. service at Grace Bible Church was missing two of its regulars Sunday.
“That’s where Molly and Corey usually sit,” said Michael Burt, the church’s pastor, gesturing to where wounded Columbia police Officer Molly Bowden and her husband, Officer Corey Bowden, sit when they attend the service.
Molly Bowden remained Sunday at University Hospital, where she has been since she was shot by Richard Evans after she pulled him over for a traffic stop Jan. 10.
As the service started four young musicians took up their instruments and led the congregation in song.
When the songs ended, a young woman read from the Bible, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, on those who walked in the shadow of death, a light has shined.”
For David and Beverly Thomas, Bowden’s parents, the light in the darkness of the last three weeks has been the community of Grace Bible Church.
Both of Bowden’s parents, who were at a later service Sunday, spoke of their connection to the church.
“We came to Grace back in the ’90s,” David Thomas said. “We don’t miss a Sunday.”
The Thomases, who had been at University Hospital before the service, said Bowden was in a coma induced by medication to help fight an infection.
Their daughter’s faith is a continual source of hope for her family. Her parents said earlier that Molly Bowden proclaimed Jesus as her savior when she was 8 years old.
Beverly Thomas said the Bible verse that’s been helping her most these days is Romans 10:9, “Because if you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
The strength that Beverly Thomas has gained from her church is palpable.
“This community has been just awesome,” she said. “It’s what sustains us.”
“Today we pray for Molly, for Corey, for Dave and Beverly,” Burt said during the later service, with the Thomases in attendance. “We want a reputation of loving our family, and this is our family.”
Church member Jeff Gould agreed.
“This is more than just people coming together on Sunday. We share each other’s hurts; we share each other’s triumphs,” he said. “The Thomases are dear to us.”
For members Kathleen Alexander and her husband, Randall, supporting the Thomases has meant caring for their house and dog so they can spend as much time with their daughter as possible.
A recorded message at the Thomas residence has been a source of updates for family, friends and co-workers.
“It is actually my husband’s voice on the answering machine,” Kathleen Alexander said. “In the evening we go to the hospital. Dave and Beverly give us the report. I write it down and my husband reads it on the machine.”
Randy Prather, who is an elder on the church’s board, said he has been surprised by what he has seen during his visits to University Hospital.
“It’s so interesting to go to the hospital and see the family that I didn’t know about,” he said, alluding to Bowden’s colleagues in the police, fire and sheriff’s departments, who have been a nearly constant presence at the hospital.
“There have been so many people who are willing to help,” Burt said.
The sign outside the church on Paris Road says it all: “Pray for Molly Bowden. Miracles Still Happen!”