Terence Mayes said that when he couldn't reach is longtime friend, David Strong, on the phone over several days last week, he assumed Strong was at an African Methodist Episcopal Church conference in Memphis.
Then Mayes heard that Strong, pastor of St. Paul AME Church on Williams Street, was found dead in his home early Sunday. Police say his death may be a homicide.
"It's very hurting because he was a good person who always tried to reach out to help others," said Mayes, pastor of Warren Chapel AME Church on North Market Street.
Police pulled over a "suspicious vehicle" containing two people about 3 a.m. Sunday, Chattanooga police spokeswoman Jerri Weary said in a release early Sunday.
The vehicle was Strong's, she said. When officers couldn't get Strong on the phone, they went to his home and found his body on the floor and signs of a struggle. The two men in Strong's vehicle were being questioned, but no arrests had been made, Weary said.
She said Sunday night police had no further information.
Strong's sister, who was at Strong's Glenwood Drive home Sunday afternoon, declined to comment. Strong was unmarried, didn't have any children and most of his immediate family lived in Memphis, according to people who knew him.
Mayes said he and Strong both came from Louisville, Ky., within a year of one another about 10 years ago.
He said that after Sunday services, the Warren Chapel congregation went to Strong's church of about 200 people, where "a lot of praying" and "reflecting back" was taking place.
Lucy B. Heard, 93, lives one house down from St. Paul, where she has been a member since she was 16. She said that since she's gotten frailer, Strong had helped around the house and brought her communion.
"It's a real shock to [our congregation], you know? Because he was a wonderful pastor," she said. "He was good man. He was a good pastor. He was just worthwhile."