Aretha Franklin's Hometown Church Holds Vigil for the Soul Icon Amid Health Battle
Aretha Franklin began her career singing gospel music at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, where her father once served as the founding minister. And now, as Franklin is “seriously ill” and in ailing health, members of that same church are singing out in prayer for a speedy recovery.
On Wednesday, a special vigil at the New Bethel Baptist Church was held in honor of the legendary singer, NBC affiliate WDIV reported — with more than 100 people showing up to 5 a.m. service and sending love Franklin’s way.
“We’re fathered to intercede on behalf of one of your children,” New Bethel’s pastor Robert Smith said during service, The Detroit News reported. “We’re asking you to touch the Queen of Soul. We’re lifting our sister up to you.”
The 50-minute vigil included both prayers and songs, The Detroit News reported. “Touch my beloved sister, in the way that only you can,” prayed one churchgoer. “She’s given so much to the world, to the community, and for all of us.”
PEOPLE reported on Monday that Franklin was in the midst of a health crisis, with a friend of the artist explaining that the singer has “been ill for a long time” and her loved ones have been warned her “death is imminent.”
The 76-year-old star has since been receiving palliative care at home, CNN reported, with family members flocking to her side.
“Aretha Franklin has been the Matriarch of the Franklin family since the passing of all of her siblings,” her longtime publicist Gwendolyn Quinn told PEOPLE. “The love she has for her family is above reproach and was evident in the warm smiles she was able to share with her nephew during his very brief visit two weeks ago.”
“She is seriously ill and surrounded by family members who appreciate the outpouring of love and support they have received,” Quinn continued.
Franklin’s nephew Tim also told PEOPLE that his aunt was “alert, laughing, teasing, able to recognize people.” He said that while Franklin “is sick,” her family is “trying to keep her spirits up and go from there” — adding, “We believe she’ll pull through it. She believes she’ll pull through it, and that’s the important thing.”
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Reports of Franklin’s health crisis first surfaced late on Sunday, with Roger Friedman — a reporter with Showbiz 411 — breaking the news. Detroit news anchor Evrod Cassimy was also in touch with Franklin’s family.
“I am so saddened to report that the Queen of Soul and my good friend, Aretha Franklin, is gravely ill,” Cassimy wrote on Twitter. “I spoke with her family members this morning. She is asking for your prayers at this time. I’ll have more details as I’m allowed to release.”
On Tuesday, Quinn confirmed to people that Stevie Wonder and Reverend Jesse Jackson have visited Franklin at her home. Ex-husband Glynn Turman, who was married to Franklin from 1978 to 1984, also paid a visit.
Prayers have also been coming in from celebrities across the country, including Beyoncé and JAY-Z, who dedicated the Detroit stop of their On the Run II tour to Franklin.