It was a simple but telling moment: Before beginning the reading of the names of those slain in the District so far this year, the Rev. Richard E. Downing advised about 60 parishioners, friends and family members of the victims that perhaps they should sit down.
"This is going to take a while," said Downing, rector of St. James Episcopal Church on Eighth Street NE, on Capitol Hill.
It took a full 15 minutes last night for Downing and parishioners to read the list of the 395 homicide victims whose names the church was able to obtain. There had been 401 victims by the time the service began, but not all the names were available. As they were reading, the District's 402nd homicide victim was found, stabbed to death just north of downtown Washington.
The list included young and old, from 3-year-old Lakeysha Small, slain April 11, to Anastasia Neumann, 82, who was beaten to death Thursday night at her home near Rock Creek Park in Northwest. Downing began the grim, methodical reading with the name of Gregory Anderson, the first person slain in the District this year.
It was the second year that Downing's church held such a reading as part of the congregation's All Souls' Day community worship service. Downing said the reading is an effort to remember the dead and their loved ones, to acknowledge their pain.
But beyond that, Downing spoke of repentance and of people who make 180-degree turns in their lives, away from the bad and toward the good, and he spoke of the love of God.
Last year, 373 names were read at the service. Noting that there were significantly more names this year, Downing said that for all the efforts of law enforcement officials and the deployment of special police details, "things have gotten worse instead of better. It does seem to me that the Christian religion has something to offer to us right now, and maybe people are ready to listen. More and more of us are becoming concerned and even frightened."
And there are those who are learning to deal with grief, such as Willette Robinson, 20, who attended last night's service.
Robinson's teenage brother, Anthony G. Robinson, was killed Sept. 22 during an argument with a friend, she said. Anthony was shot four times. Anthony's friend has been arrested, she said.
As her brother's name was read, Robinson became distraught and dabbed at tears.
"He was only 17. Seventeen," she said softly after the service. "He was just a big kid. He was big in size, but just a child at heart."
As the tears flowed faster, Robinson said: "They need to just stop the killings. Friends are killing friends. I feel sorry my brother's gone, and I feel sorry for everyone who's lost a loved one to violence."
As Robinson grieved for her brother in church, police found the latest homicide victim.
About 8 p.m., homicide detectives were called to the 900 block of M Street NW, where a man was found stabbed to death. His identity and other details about that killing were not immediately available.