Lisle church keeps Sandra Bland's spirit alive

  • Shante Needham, foreground, and her mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, stand with a memorial to Sandra Bland at DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lisle. The church held services in memory of Bland on Sunday.

      Shante Needham, foreground, and her mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, stand with a memorial to Sandra Bland at DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lisle. The church held services in memory of Bland on Sunday. Steve Zalusky | Staff Photographer

  • Geneva Reed-Veal, right, the mother of Sandra Bland, reaches out for the hand of Sandra's sister, Shante Needham, during a memorial service Sunday at DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lisle.

      Geneva Reed-Veal, right, the mother of Sandra Bland, reaches out for the hand of Sandra's sister, Shante Needham, during a memorial service Sunday at DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lisle. Steve Zalusky | Staff Photographer

  • From left, the Rev. Morgan Dixon, the Rev. James Miller, Shante Needham of Naperville, the Rev. Lana Parks Miller and the Rev. Carolyn Albert Donovan join hands in prayer after lighting a candle for Sandra Bland during the Sunday morning service at the DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lisle.

      From left, the Rev. Morgan Dixon, the Rev. James Miller, Shante Needham of Naperville, the Rev. Lana Parks Miller and the Rev. Carolyn Albert Donovan join hands in prayer after lighting a candle for Sandra Bland during the Sunday morning service at the DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lisle. Morgan Timms | Staff Photographer

  • Shante Needham, one of Sandra Bland's sisters, prays in response to the Rev. James Miller's preaching Sunday during the DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church's vigil in memory of Sandra Bland on Sunday in Lisle.

      Shante Needham, one of Sandra Bland's sisters, prays in response to the Rev. James Miller's preaching Sunday during the DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church's vigil in memory of Sandra Bland on Sunday in Lisle. Morgan Timms | Staff Photographer

  • Sandra Bland was honored during Sunday morning services at the DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lisle, where Bland had been an active member since her childhood.

      Sandra Bland was honored during Sunday morning services at the DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lisle, where Bland had been an active member since her childhood. Morgan Timms | Staff Photographer

  • The Rev. James Miller preaches Sunday during a candle-lighting service honoring the late Sandra Bland. "Sandra wasn't a political activist or a social media figure," Miller said. "She was our daughter, she was our sister and she was our friend." Bland had attended the DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lisle with her family.

      The Rev. James Miller preaches Sunday during a candle-lighting service honoring the late Sandra Bland. "Sandra wasn't a political activist or a social media figure," Miller said. "She was our daughter, she was our sister and she was our friend." Bland had attended the DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lisle with her family. Morgan Timms | Staff Photographer

 
Updated 7/17/2016 6:53 PM

A year after Sandra Bland's death, her presence remains alive within the walls of the Lisle church she faithfully attended.

DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church held a memorial Sunday for the former Naperville resident, who died in July 2015 after being placed in a Texas jail cell after a traffic stop. The arrest was captured on video and her death became national news.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Her mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, and her sister, Shante Needham, took part in a candle-lighting ceremony during services at the church Sunday. In the center of the church, in front of a table that held Bland's picture, a candle and a vase of flowers, Reed-Veal and Needham shed tears and hugged church officials.

Senior Pastor the Rev. James Miller remembered Bland as "a friend and a daughter and a sister."

"We're remembering somebody who made a Women's Day announcement three weeks before her death. We're remembering somebody who sat in the pews of this church and was an active member," he added.

Miller recalled Reed-Veal joining the church 15 years earlier as a single mother who wanted to give her five daughters "the best opportunity in life that they could have."

Miller told the congregation Bland had "questions about salvation and how you live in this world of misery and pain as a Christian," but that she worked out her salvation before her death.

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Reed-Veal thanked fellow church members for their prayers and encouragement, and in turn encouraged them to be patient with their wait for justice.

"We still have no knowledge of anything. And it's all right," she told the crowd. "Please don't say, 'It's taking too long. What's going on?' God's doing what he's doing."

Members of the church choir wore purple shirts inscribed with white letters spelling "REMEMBER SANDY BLAND," as well as a quote: "Freedom is conditional."

One of the choir members, Elizabeth Boone of Aurora, said she was close with Bland.

"We were just like pals. She and all the people in the choir as well," Boone said. "We all knew her. We have choir members that she babysat for. They took care of her. We were like a family."

Choir member Kim Fields of River Forest said she was affected by Sunday's service, looking at it from the perspective of Bland's mother, who lost her child.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"How do you move forward as a parent when you have experienced something like this?" she said.

Another worshiper, Robert Pettis of Hickory Hills, spoke of recent racial tensions, and said people on both sides need to admit there are issues they need to address.

"We need love. We need understanding. We need empathy on both sides," he said.

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