>> PHOTOS: Notable deaths 2017
“Bishop Long, senior pastor of New Birth, transitioned from this life early Sunday morning after a gallant private fight with an aggressive form of cancer,” the statement said.
Leaders on the prayer call, which opened and closed with music, at times seemed emotional as they talked about how Long had always “sowed seeds” in them and in others. Heath said the service would celebrate his life, sacrifice and service.
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He acknowledged that members were still is the midst of working out their thoughts and feelings considering the life and legacy of Long.
Also on the call was Elder Carla Stokes and Bishop Kenneth Pearman.
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Long was absent at several services during recent months but was present during Christmas and New Year's Eve services. His last sermon was during Watch Night Services to usher in the new year.
New Birth members were told of Long’s death Sunday. Some sobbed and cried. Others prayed and leaned on those near them in support.
“Even though we don’t know the details right now, Bishop Long wouldn’t leave us in a lurch,” said longtime member Lela Brooks, a member for 29 years. “His legacy will live on. He did a lot of good and we won’t let that fade.”
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Talis Burrell hadn’t been a member as long. Having joined in 2006, she said even though the congregation held out hope that Long had won the battle with his illness, she wasn’t completely caught off guard at his passing.
“He hadn’t really come back physically," she said.
“I’ve been a member here for 34 years and it’s just devastating,” said Keith Crowley. “It’s sad for the world.”
Crowley, like many members of New Birth, found out about Long’s death when it was announced during Sunday’s service.