The Sunday service at St. James Baptist Church, the home church of Young Dolph, featured a salute to the slain Memphis rapper. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)

Never again will the St. James Baptist Church congregation delight at the presence of Adolph Robert Thornton Jr., the Memphis rapper the world knew as “Young Dolph.”

Memphis and beyond is mourning the loss of 36-year-old Thornton. He was gunned down on the afternoon of Nov. 17 when two gunmen pulled onto the parking lot of Makeda’s Homemade “Butter Cookies” at 2370 Airways, where Young Dolph was inside, making a purchase.

The gunman shot into the store, hitting Thornton several times before jumping back into their vehicle, a white Mercedes, and speeding off.

Pastor Rodney Herron said the church will miss Young Dolph, but his spirit of giving and sharing will help keep his memory alive.

“We want to always remember to give back to others who are in need,” said Herron. “It’s important to let people know that somebody loves them, somebody cares.

“Dolph loved his family, his church and his community. Giving was the way he lived out his faith.”

Pastor Rodney Herron: “We don’t have to wait for Thursday, when we celebrate Thanksgiving. God has been good to us. He has kept us. We thank Him for the life of this young man (Young Dolph).” (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)

Herron’s preaching Sunday (Nov. 21) was as fiery and uplifting as other Sundays. However, there was an empty seat in the back where Young Dolph would come and sit when he came home to Memphis. Dressed in a white tee, ripped jeans and designer boots, his tall, slender frame attempted to be inconspicuous. It was impossible.

“We came to give God thanks,” said Herron. “We don’t have to wait for Thursday, when we celebrate Thanksgiving. God has been good to us. He has kept us. We thank Him for the life of this young man.”

Sunday was the first weekly worship service following the murder of St. James’ beloved son. Representatives of Young Dolph’s record label, Paper Route Empire, and his charitable foundation converged on the church grounds on Saturday (Nov. 20) to distribute 400 turkeys.

Young Dolph already had planned to meet Herron after his cookie run to finalize details on his pre-Thanksgiving, turkey giveaway.

He never made it back from Makeda’s.

Young Dolph’s “presence” was felt at St. James MBC last Sunday. The photo shows him at the church for an Easter Weekend gathering focused on children. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley)

The St. James congregation, as were rap fans everywhere, is grieving the loss of Young Dolph, but there were no solemn dirges and sad songs on Sunday. 

Loud, jubilant songs of praise and thanksgiving could be heard outside, well beyond the confines of the church walls.

A jubilant crowd sang out at offering time:

“Lord, I thank you, thank you, thank you,

“Lord, I thank you, thank you, thank you,

“Lord, I thank you all the days of my life

“Lord, I thank you, thank you, thank you,

“Lord, I thank you, thank you, thank you,

“Lord, I thank you all the days of my life.”

Herron’s dynamic preaching style brought him from the pulpit, down into the crowd, where he encouraged church members to celebrate God with grateful hearts.