"There is nothing our hands can do to reverse the evil that has been done," said Elder William Taliaferro, addressing the congregation at the start of the service. He called on God to "help us recognize there is a day when the wicked will cease from troubling you."
Less than two weeks ago, the children - Keiearra Williams, 15; Joseph Reed, 10; and Terrance Moore, 7 - had been selling fruit to raise money for a church group on the corner of Allegheny and Germantown Avenues when a carjacked SUV jumped the curb and rammed into the fruit stand. The children were killed. Their mother was critically injured - so badly that she only opened her eyes Wednesday, and could not attend her children's funeral.
Her surviving daughters, Aeisha and Charmaine, sat surrounded by relatives instead, and placed a stuffed animal into each of their siblings' caskets as they were closed.
Keiearra, the "mother hen" of the five Williams siblings, was about to start high school and loved to read and draw, her family wrote in an obituary read at the service. Joseph - "Joe-Joe" to the family - "enjoyed riding his bike, and everyone else's." Terrance, they said, "was the precious baby boy."
"They were children with a bright future," the family wrote. "They were full of promise."
Speakers both religious and secular - including District Attorney Seth Williams and Rep. W. Curtis Thomas (D., Phila.) - talked of the children's commitment to their community, and their passion for a modest community garden on their North Philadelphia block.
Sonia Blount, who had helped organize the garden, gave the remaining Williams sisters a plant from the tiny plot of land they had spent hours tending.
"The work is not done," said Blount, founder of local nonprofit Youth For Change.
Amid their grief, the congregation sang, cheered, and clapped as speakers and family members paid tribute to the children.
Pastor Keith Goodman, in a rousing eulogy, urged the church to remember that "God's eyes were watching these children."
"These children who died in Christ are going to come up like he came up," he said.
The congregation rose to its feet, arms in the air.
"We are sad, but our sadness is infused with a degree of hope," he said in a booming voice.
In the front pews, the Williams family members hugged each other, clasped hands, and listened as he said, "The dead in Christ shall rise up!"