For­give­ness, love — and gun con­trol

For­give­ness, but also racism and gun con­trol, are ser­mon top­ics at L. A. ser­vice

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Cindy Chang cindy. chang@ latimes. com

AME church ser­vice pays trib­ute to Charleston, S. C., vic­tims’ fam­i­lies.

The Fa­ther’s Day ser­vice at the old­est black church in Los An­ge­les be­gan Sun­day with choir mem­bers clap­ping and danc­ing joy­ously down the aisle.

By the time the open­ing num­ber ended with one last “Praise the Lord,” many in the pews at First African Methodist Epis­co­pal Church were danc­ing too.

Then came the somber ref­er­ences to Charleston, S. C. Four days ear­lier, nine African Amer­i­can wor­shipers at an AME church were shot to death by a white man they had wel­comed into their Bi­ble study.

The shock has worn off, leav­ing parish­ioners strug­gling to un­der­stand a deadly act of vi­o­lence in a church much like their own.

In his ser­mon, Se­nior Pas­tor J. Edgar Boyd spoke of love and for­give­ness but also of the need to com­bat the racism that mo­ti­vated the Charleston at­tack. The ac­cused shooter, Dy­lann Roof, ap­pears to have em­braced white supremacy, pos­ing for a photo in a jacket dec­o­rated with aparthei­dera South African and Rhode­sian f lags.

“If it’s not a mas­sacre in a church in Charleston, S. C., it’s the next one wait­ing to hap­pen,” Boyd said. “If Amer­ica is to f ix the race prob­lem which has plagued the en­tirety of this na­tion’s history, we must all be­come in­volved in pro­vid­ing the cure and a so­lu­tion for the prob­lem.”

One place to start, he said, is the Con­fed­er­ate f lag f ly­ing on the South Carolina Capi­tol grounds. The f lag should be re­moved be­cause it is a “relic of the dis­tant past,” he said. Boyd also called for stricter gun con- trol, cit­ing the gun that Roof is said to have used.

“Fathers, give your sons good gifts. Moth­ers, give your sons good gifts.... Give them the gift of love,” he said.

Ad­dress­ing the con­gre­ga­tion, Los An­ge­les County Su­per­vi­sor Mark Ri­d­leyThomas said that more than ever, African Amer­i­cans need to f ight back against racially mo­ti­vated vi­o­lence.

“Whether you see us in suits or in a hoodie, black lives mat­ter,” Ri­d­ley- Thomas said.

First AME, which was founded in 1872, con­tin­ued its tra­di­tion of wel­com­ing visi­tors Sun­day. Dur­ing the ser­vice, ev­ery­one who was there for the f irst time was greeted by a whoop­ing cheer.

As church mem­bers brought do­na­tions down the aisles, Boyd de­scribed each of the Charleston vic­tims. Among them were Cle­menta C. Pinck­ney, the church’s pas­tor as well as a state sen- ator and a fa­ther, and Sharonda Sin­gle­ton, a staff mem­ber at Emanuel AME and the mother of a col­lege base­ball player.

Dressed in white with black rib­bons pinned to their chests to honor the vic­tims, choir mem­bers light­ened the mood by belt­ing out high- spir­ited tunes, in­clud­ing a solo by a woman known as “The Rap­ping Granny.”

Out­side the church, Brenda LaMotte said she turned off the tele­vi­sion be­cause cov­er­age of the Charleston tragedy was mak­ing her weep. She is try­ing to for­give the gun­man but “is not there yet.”

“It’s just a sad thing that there’s so much hate right now,” said LaMotte, 66, a re­tired gov­ern­ment worker who has at­tended the church for about 10 years.

Tom Cas­saro, a 44- yearold at­tor­ney, was a first- time visi­tor to the church along with his son, Mar­shall, 6. Cas­saro, who is white, said he has at­tended black churches be­fore and has al­ways felt welcome.

“I felt like to­day was as good a day as any to come and say a prayer for what hap­pened in South Carolina,” he said.

Pho­tog r aphs by Katie Falkenberg Los An­ge­les Times

PAS­TOR J. EDGAR BOYD

prayed for Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S. C., and paid trib­ute to the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies.

THE CON­GRE­GA­TION joins hands as they sing at First AME Church of Los An­ge­les. The Con­fed­er­ate f lag must no longer be hon­ored, Pas­tor Boyd said.

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