Black church in US holds 1st ser­vice since shoot­ings

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY PHILLIP LU­CAS

Mem­bers of a his­toric black church re­turned to their sanc­tu­ary Sun­day to hear a ser­mon of re­cov­ery and heal­ing, a mes­sage that will re­ver­ber­ate across Amer­ica.

Sun­day morn­ing marks the first wor­ship ser­vice at Emanuel African Methodist Epis­co­pal Church in Charleston since Dy­lann Roof, 21, sat among a Bi­ble study group and opened fire af­ter say­ing that he tar­geted them be­cause they were black, author­i­ties said.

Among the nine killed was the church pas­tor, the Rev. Cle­menta Pinck­ney, who was also a state sen­a­tor.

Events to show sol­i­dar­ity are planned through­out the city Sun­day and be­yond, in­clud­ing the syn­chro­nized ring­ing of church bells at 10 a.m. EDT. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Ha­ley and her fam­ily were to at­tend the ser­vice at Emanuel.

De­spite grim cir­cum­stances, the wel­com­ing spirit that Roof ex­ploited be­fore the shoot­ing is still alive, church mem­bers said.

Harold Washington, 75, ex­pects the sanc­tu­ary to host even more new­com­ers af­ter one shat­tered the group’s sense of peace and se­cu­rity.

“We’re gonna have peo­ple come by that we’ve never seen be­fore and will prob­a­bly never see again, and that’s OK,” he said Satur­day. “It’s a church of the Lord, you don’t turn no­body down.”

Church lead­ers will try to ad­dress the heavy psy­cho­log­i­cal bur­dens parish­ioners bring with them. An hour be­fore ser­vice, peo­ple lined up out­side the church.

“I think just be­cause of what peo­ple have gone through emo­tions are def­i­nitely height­ened, not just in Charleston but with any­one go­ing to church be­cause it is such a sa­cred place, it is such a safe place,” Shae Edros, 29, said af­ter a mul­tira­cial group of women sang “Amaz­ing Grace” out­side the church Satur­day af­ter­noon.

On the nearby Arthur Ravenel Bridge, peo­ple are ex­pected to join hands in sol­i­dar­ity Sun­day evening.

Unity Church of Charleston the Rev. Ed Kosak said de­liv­er­ing Sun­day morn­ing’s ser­mon would be emo­tion­ally tax­ing but he felt em­pow­ered by the strength and grace that Emanuel mem­bers have shown.

“I’ve gone into Sun­day ser­mons be­fore like when Vir­ginia Tech hap­pened, and when the Sikh shoot­ings hap­pened,” Kosak said. “I am more ready than ever to speak to this tragedy in ways I didn’t think I could be­fore.”

For the fam­ily of Cyn­thia Hurd, Sun­day’s ser­vice will be es­pe­cially poignant. Hurd, a long­time li­brar- ian, would have been cel­e­brat­ing her 55th birth­day and was plan­ning a trip to Vir­ginia with her sib­lings.

“Sun­day will not be a sad day for me; it will be a cel­e­bra­tion for me. It will be a cel­e­bra­tion for our fam­ily be­cause our faith is be­ing tested,” Hurd’s younger brother Mal­colm Graham said. “She was in the com­pany of God try­ing to help some­body out. She was where she needed to be.”

AP

A parish­ioner prays at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church four days af­ter a mass shoot­ing that claimed the lives of its pas­tor and eight oth­ers in Charleston, South Carolina, Sun­day, June 21.

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