Andrew Pray died Nov. 21 in a biking-automobile accident in North Georgia. He is a former Locust Grove resident and worship pastor at Avalon Church in McDonough.
McDONOUGH — Pastor Ritchie Miller and the Avalon Church community are grieving this holiday season for one of their spiritual leaders.
Miller said as much as he drove in solitude across the Missouri state line into northwest Arkansas. He was on his way to Springdale, Ark., a moderately-sized city whose chamber of commerce boasts about its 65,000 residents and 95 different churches. There, he attended funeral services for his friend, Andrew Quin Pray.
Miller reflected on a sermon he delivered Sunday to members of Avalon Church in McDonough. They had just learned of Pray’s death.
“We better be prepared to live every moment to the fullest,” Miller remembered telling his congregation. “Andrew was really a great example. He lived in the moment. He loved the Lord, he loved his wife, he loved his church, he loved his job — he lived a fuller life than most people would ever live.”
Pray served as worship pastor at Avalon Church from 2003-2010. He was a guitarist and singer who led the band and music ministry.
“He had high standards musically and as a result they got better and out church got better,” said Miller. “Andrew was an incredible leader and he was a great encourager. People commented on how he built them up. He helped lead the church through exponential growth.”
Pray was an athlete in high school, he said. His main sport was football. But he got a back injury that required surgery in his late teens or early twenties, he said.
“He couldn’t lift weights so he began cycling and fell in love with cycling,” said Miller.
Cycling became a hobby for his friend and it served as his regular workout.
Reportedly, Pray was wearing a helmet when he was struck by a vehicle on the eve of Thanksgiving. He had been biking northbound on U.S. 41 in Bartow County. He died from injuries Nov. 21, days before his 31st birthday Nov. 26.
“There was an outpouring of love from our church,” said Miller. “We’re in shock. But we also know that God is in control.”
Pray was the son of a pastor. He grew up in Springdale, Ark., attending Cross Church. He had been a worship pastor at West Ridge Church in Dallas, Ga., since transferring from Avalon Church in 2010.
He is survived by his wife of 10 years, Courtney; three children — Noah, 8, Halle, 6, and Carson, 2; parents, Buster and Martha Pray, of Bentonville, Ark; sister, Mandi, and her husband Josh Carson, of Ft. Smith, Ark; maternal grandparents, Leland and Laurin Hume, of Jackson, Miss.; and paternal grandmother, Dorothy Pray, of Jackson, Miss.
Pray’s obituary gave a final remembrance of the husband, father and pastor.
“Andrew positively impacted the lives of everyone he met,” read his obituary. “He was genuinely concerned about adding value to their life story. He loved the church of Jesus. He adored his family, and his legacy of faith will be felt for generations to come.”