When Pastor Willie Rush and the congregation of Goodway Missionary Baptist Church came for services Sunday, March 3, it was like they were worshipping at the site of a war zone.

Earlier, around 3:30 a.m., Philadelphia police responded to the church after receiving a report that shots had been fired. The building and its sign had been struck by bullets after an apparent shootout in the area sent three people to the hospital.

Assistant Police Chief Julien Greer told members of the Philadelphia Mayor and Board of Alderman that one person had been stabbed and another had been punched in the mouth. It was later learned that a third person had been taken to Laird Hospital and later transferred to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson was a gunshot wound.

The church is located at 255 Atkins Street in Philadelphia.  As startling as the incident was, no one was surprised.

“It has been going on for 20, 30-plus years,” Pastor Rush said.

The problem, Rush and others say, stems from people who gather late at night on the weekends at a nearby residence. What apparently starts as a party, ends up in the street with excessive drinking, fights, the littering of beer cans and other trash, damage to property, illegal parking and sometimes even assaults and murders.

“I know of three murders and seven stabbings that have occurred over the years,” Pastor Rush said. “My dad, Pastor A.C. Rush, pastored here for 27 years. When he retired in 2012, I took over.

“It is the same house, the same thing. They have parties, not every weekend but just about every weekend. Only a few people can park in his place. Then they (start) parking in the streets and drinking in our church parking lot in front of the church,” Rush said.

“The city about two years ago had some No Parking street signs put up. They said anyone parking in the streets, they would tow them. No one has been towed,” Rush said.

“It is inaction and it doesn’t look like we are going to get too much done,” he continued. “It’s like this has been going on for 30 years. There is some money involved, somewhere. They (law enforcement) aren’t really coming in and doing investigations and stuff. I know of other places around here where there was bootlegging and they shut those places down.”

Pastor Rush and some of the members of his church went before the Philadelphia Board of Aldermen during their meeting last Tuesday. A long conversation among elected officials ensued. (See story, page A3). Finally, it was agreed that the board would approve overtime for the Philadelphia Police Department to call extra officers in to enforce the law, protect property and keep people out of the street. If that doesn’t work, Mayor James Young said extra steps will be taken.

Pastor Rush said that all sounds good but he wants this problem to be solved forever on.

“It will be good for a little while,” Rush said. “I don’t know if the mayor will put a lot of pressure on it.

“Two years ago, I went up there with bag of trash and just put it on the floor,” Rush said. “That’s when they put the signs up and were going tow some cars but nothing happened. We as members of this church are going to have to keep going up there and staying on them about the problem.”

There were no disturbances or parties in the area this past weekend. Rush said he learned that Philadelphia police patrolled the area regularly throughout the night.