Antoinette Colbert of Columbia signs a card for Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) at the the Silver Spring 50 Prayer Brunch For Peace With Iran and Healing of John Lewis sponsored by the Converted Heart Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church in Silver Spring. Photo by George Smith/The Montgomery Sentinel

SILVER SPRING – When Rocky Twyman of Rockville heard that Converted Heart CME Church of Silver Spring was celebrating its fifth anniversary, he knew what he had to do.

The church, which assembles in the Silver Spring Civic Center on Fridays and Sundays, is known for caring about the less fortunate. Last year, church members warmed the feet of the homeless by handing out 500 pairs of socks. It coordinates with Manna Food Center to distribute food to the hungry.

So before attending the Jan. 11 celebration, he prepared two oversized folded white cards – one he entitled Book of Prayers for peace in Iran and the other Book of Prayers and Healing of John Lewis, who recently was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer.

Twyman moved from table to table, urging the churchgoers to sign the cards.

“We really do need a prayer, because our country is really, really a mess,” he said.

Twyman respects Lewis so much due to his work as a civil rights icon that he now is working on getting Lewis nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

He calls Lewis “my dear friend,” noting that as he grew up in Atlanta, he had a strong personal connection.

“Certainly, I know of his heroics, his commitment,” Twyman said.

But the pianist also knew Lewis personally.

“He and his wife (Lillian) just took me under their wings. I played piano at many of his VIP events. His wife had this fabulous piano in his house, and I would go over and play. They always looked out for me.”

Lillian Lewis made sure Twyman got a job where she worked, at the then-Atlanta University Library. The couple also assisted him in obtaining musical bookings.

Besides his music career, Lewis “inspired me to get involved in the civil rights movement,” Twyman said.

The congressman encouraged Twyman to picket at stores that kept Blacks out but did not allow him to join in when arrests were imminent, he said.

“John’s activism in Atlanta inspired me to picket a Kroger store in my community. I could not go to jail because they said 13 was too young.”

All those memories are what push Twyman to “keep his memory alive.”

He intends to picket at former President Barack Obama’s house and possibly former President Jimmy Carter’s, both who have received the Noble Peace Prize, so are eligible to nominate Lewis.

Ethel Panda of Silver Spring signed the card for Lewis. “He’s not feeling well, and he needs some prayers. I wish him the best and a speedy recovery,” she said.

Gerri Barnes of Ellicott City worked with Lewis when she was a federal employee with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“He was personable and seemed very sincere in his mission, and he seemed able to make time for anyone,” Panda said.

Antoinette Colbert of Columbia signed both cards, noting, “I want peace for them.”

Converted Heart is the first and only Christian Methodist Episcopal church in Montgomery County. It began meeting in Silver Spring five years ago.

“Our church focus is really helping the homeless in our community, God’s people who are in the outskirts,” said Pastor Darryl A. Burton.

“We go put socks on people’s feet. We really want to make an impact,” he said.

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