NEW YORK – Thousands in Manhattan and up to a million via webcast are expected to participate in a memorial service today honoring the Rev. David Wilkerson, the founding pastor of Times Square Church and founder of addiction recovery program Teen Challenge.
The memorial service is going "to celebrate his life and reflect upon his legacy of faith and trust in God. [It's] a cause to rejoice in the victory of Christ through the life of a man who finished the race well," Luly McCoy, director of communications at Times Square Church, told The Christian Post.
"We like to think of Pastor Dave as singing and dancing around the throne of God and we will share in his joy and rejoice with him," she said.
McCoy said 5,000 to 10,000 people will attend the 2 p.m. memorial service at Times Square Church at 51st street, between Broadway and Eighth Ave.
Family, closest friends, denominational leaders and dignitaries will be seated in the church's main sanctuary. The service will be open to the general public, which will be seated at the Education Annex of the church and in three overflow locations nearby.
Times Square Church will webcast the memorial service live on its website, www.tscny.org, beginning at 2 p.m. ET. Several translations will be available.
Anywhere from 10,000 to 1 million visitors are expected to watch the service online, according to McCoy.
"Pastor David was known and loved throughout the world. We have upgraded our bandwidth and streaming capacity to accommodate up to one million people viewing the service live," she said.
The service will be one hour to 1.5 hours in length and include videos and testimonials. The Times Square Church Adult and Youth Praise Choirs will lead in worship.
Wilkerson was laid to rest at private funeral last week at Rose Heights Church of God in Tyler, Texas. On April 27, he died at the age of 79 after his car fatally collided with a truck in East Texas. His wife, Gwendolyn Wilkerson, 70, survived the crash but soon after underwent surgery to repair a broken hip.
World Challenge Ministries reported Thursday that Mrs. Wilkerson is making "slow and steady improvement" after having been transferred from ICU to physical rehabilitation.
Wilkerson is also known for his bestselling book The Cross and the Switchblade, which chronicles how he began his ministry in New York City and his work with youths involved in drugs and gangs.
Many, including church and ministry leaders in New York City and around the world, are remembering Wilkerson as a "legend," "spiritual father," and devoted Christian leader.
Evangelist Nicky Cruz called Wilkerson a "true man of God" during his eulogy at the pastor's funeral.
"It was sudden and unexpected," McCoy said of Wilkerson's passing. "The tears come easily. Pastor Dave was our spiritual father. We loved him."
"We are experiencing overwhelming sadness but also overwhelming joy," she added. "He has gone ahead and we rejoice that he is finally face to face with his Beloved. We believe the Lord will honor him in death as he has honored him in life, and even through this memorial service, we will see great fruit. Many will get right with God, surrender their hearts because of his life. That is his legacy."
Pastor Wilkerson is survived by his wife, four children, and brothers Don Wilkerson and Jerry Wilkerson and sister Ruth Harris.
In lieu of flowers and gifts, the Wilkerson family has asked that donations be given to World Challenge’s Please Pass the Bread feeding program, Wilkerson’s last heartfelt endeavor to reach the poor.
Doors for the memorial service will open at 12 p.m. ET. Entrance for the general public will be at the Education Annex between 51st and 52nd Streets. Overflow locations will include the Equitable Auditorium at 787 Seventh Ave., Calvary Baptist Church at 123 West 57th St. and New World Stages at 340 West 50th St.
Seating will be on a first come, first serve basis.
On the Web: www.tscny.org