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June 22, 2015
On Wednesday, June 17, 2015 a white gunman walked into a historic black church in Charleston, SC and open-fired, killing nine people, "and in the process, shattered lives and any remaining illusion that there are spaces where black lives are protected in the United States" (Rolling in Sackcloths and Ashes, Bailey).
Known as "Mother Emanuel," the Emanuel AME Church's congregation was formed in 1791 by free and enslaved African Americans. It was the first AME church in the South and is the oldest AME church in the US.
From the NC NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement: "Denmark Vesey, one of the founders of the congregation, orchestrated a slave rebellion uncovered in 1822. Thirty-five slaves were executed and white mobs burned the church in retaliation for the revolt plot. The congregation rebuilt the church and met until 1834, when the state legislature of South Carolina banned black churches. They met secretly until Emancipation in 1865."
Below are some responses from friends and members of the BPFNA. We invite you to read and share these pieces. If you have anything you'd like to share, please send it to [email protected]
May these words -- and our actions -- in some small way witness to God's peace rooted in justice.
Remembering the nine who were killed:
Rev. Clementa Pinckney
Rev. Sharonda Singleton
Ethel Lee Lance
Rev. Daniel L. Simmons
Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor
"Today, the day after nine black people have been assassinated by a white terrorist in their house of worship, I am sickened beyond words. So, let me leave it at this for now. From my friend and mentor, John Stanley, 'White people: we've got to quit killing black people.'" -Rev. Mary Wilson, Pastor of Church of the Savior, Cedar Park, TX
Click here to make a donation to the Emanuel AME Church community today.
from The World Student Christian Federation of North America
The World Student Christian Federation of North America would like to express its sympathy for the lives lost, and its commitment to stand in solidarity with the families of those who were murdered, the communities in which they resided, the African Methodist Episcopal community, the Black communities around the world, and the world itself suffering from actions which threaten to separate us from God's Love.
As Christians we are shocked by the realization that this heinous act was committed in a Church as the people sat down to study the Word of God. We would like to remember the lives that we lost: Cynthia Hurd, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Depayne Middleton Doctor, Daniel Simmons, Myra Thompson, and Clementa Pinkney. We hold these lives as sacred, as if they were our own. And we hold them up in this way to make sure that they are not forgotten. These lives are nine in many that have been taken away through violent acts these past months.
from the NC NAACP and Forward Together Moral Movement
We call on people of conscience and of all faiths to pray for justice and love and against the demonizing forces of racism. We extend our prayers to Emanuel AME Church, to the families of those who were shot and killed.
We ask for prayers of faith for all people to not only challenge overt expressions and actions of racism, but to challenge, as this church has done throughout its history, policies that have a disparate impact on African Americans and other minorities like the denial of Medicaid expansion, voter suppression, cutting funding of public education, denying living wages and labor rights. All of these are issues that Emanuel AME's late minister, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, cared about.
from Rev. Kadia Edwards, member of the BPFNA board of directors
A few months ago while traveling to Selma, AL to participate in the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of “Bloody Sunday”, I stopped in Birmingham to tour few of the landmarks that lend their own significance to an extended movement to recognize and affirm black bodies in America as equals. One such landmark was the 16th Street Baptist Church where four little girls were killed and 22 were injured during an intentional bombing in 1963. While touring the church, I listened to conversations around me regarding the evil that would cause these individuals to target a place of worship due to hatred for a race of people. The word that spoke loudly to me was FEAR. For the last few days, as I’ve sat in horror in front of the television and read the news about another terrorist attack on a place where people gather to study the scriptures and seek direction and healing, I am again privy to the language of FEAR that continues to speak to me.
from Rev. Jennifer Bailey, minister in the AME Church, a Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellow and Founder of the Faith Matters Network.
Originally published in the Huffington Post. Reprinted with permission from the author.
Above my bed hangs my certificate of ordination in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. It is much more than a piece of paper, but the physical representation of my call and life journey pursuing justice for God's creation in the name of Jesus Christ. The day I was ordained was the most meaningful day of my life...
This morning, I awoke under the watchful eye of that certificate into a living nightmare. Reports about the shooting at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, dominated my social media feed as texts from friends and colleagues poured in. Some expressed sorrow. Others shock. Yet, the most visceral feeling in my gut was rage. Nine bullets pierced the side of nine black bodies and in the process, shattered lives and any remaining illusion that there are spaces where black lives are protected in the United States. They were mothers, grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers crucified at the foot of the cross for embodying the virtue of hospitality. If, as a Christian, rage is absent from your analysis of what happened in Charleston, I am not sure we worship the same God.
By Ronald Fairley
I’m African-American, I have sons and I attend a black church.
The likelihood of attending the funeral of my sons or being killed myself has just increased. It seems the Christian ministry of reconciliation has failed in its transformative purpose of reconciling us to God then reconciling us to each other.
We have instead maintained the racial division by alienating each other in times of normalcy, so when a tragedy occurs we are uncertain of how to proceed at the time of our Christian brothers and sisters greatest need. How can those of us who call Christ our Savior do things differently in the midst of this great turmoil?
Do we need to add indifference and complacency to the list of the deadly sins? Because African-American men and women are dying, and I refuse believe we can’t do something different that will save lives in the coming days, months and years.
I’m not angry.
from Rev. Michael Ford
“Building Destroyed … Church Open” That was the sign that was in front of Lake Avenue Baptist Church in the days following the fire that destroyed the great stone building that stood on the site of what is now our church home. Out of great tragedy came a church that decided to move forward with all heart and soul and to seek to witness to the community that they would rebuild.
On Sunday June 21, 2015, the people of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, opened the doors to their church building for worship. This was unlike any other Sunday, however, as just days before a young man took the lives of 9 people who had gathered for Bible study and prayer in that very building. No one would have criticized the church if it had chosen to stay closed that Sunday. No one would have challenged the church if it had chosen to have only members in attendance for worship as they dealt with their grief. However, they chose to open the doors as they would have any other Sunday, as they indeed did on the night of the tragic shooting, to be together in one place and to welcome all those who wanted to come in. Out of a great tragedy came a church that decided to move forward with all heart and soul to witness to the community that they would rebuild.
from Rev. Joseph Glaze, Calvary Baptist Church, Washington, DC
I hope our horror over the racially-motivated murders in Charleston, South Carolina moves us beyond more than merely prayers in worship for a Sunday or two. We must go beyond our usual reactive response to racism to a proactive one. Our conversation about racism no longer can be sporadic but must be ongoing—and about the common, everyday racism that infects us all and which we either ignore or excuse. And, such dialogue should lead to actions that confront the injustices committed by those in power, addresses the needs and rights of those on the margins, and changes the racist attitudes and behaviors in us all.
from Rev. Bill Slater, Wake Forest Baptist Church, Wake Forest, NC
The events of the past week should move us not just to remorse or sadness, it should move us to action. Our church, along with Heritage Baptist and two local African American churches--Wakefield Family and Friendship Chapel--have instituted over a month ago a racial reconciliation adventure called "Breaking Bread/Breaking Barriers." Each individual or couple will match up with others from other churches and share in a series of meals around each other's tables in their homes. It is not enough to say we love each other, we must strive to be one with each other. I hope every member of WFBC will say "count me in" and move from the sidelines to where true faith is lived out as our churches are taking the lead to make sure we can live out the same spirit we have now witnessed at Emmanuel A.M.E.
from University Baptist Church, Seattle
On the first Sunday after the horrendous murder of nine members of the African American church known as "Mother Emanuel" Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, South Carolina (including their pastor), several members of UBC felt they needed to be at worship in one of Evergreen Association's black congregations. Martha Bean, Tom Nielsen, Brooke Rolston, Joanne Wright, and moderator Mona Han attended the early service on June 21st at New Beginnings Christian Fellowship in Renton.
Pastor Dave sent them all with his blessing, sharing the desire of the UBC community that our church be present among our Black sisters and brothers with our prayers as well as our bodies.
During the service, Senior Pastor Leslie Braxton first led a candlelight remembrance of the nine slain in Charleston, then sang from the pulpit "Bridge Over Troubled Water," and then offered a powerful sermon on "living by faith" — calling for an end to the nation's two grievous sins of racial oppression and gun violence.
It was a morning of shared fellowship, of word and song, and a declaration that no racist violence will divide sisters and brothers of the Christian Way.
from Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper
This sermon was supposed to be about the remarkable biblical literature on housing and place and spaciousness. It was supposed to be about Father’s Day and the urgency many fathers feel to provide a home for their family. Mothers feel it too but today is not Mother’s Day. It was supposed to be about the glory of Solomon’s temple, which surely is and was glorious, till God’s enemies destroyed it. My plan was to talk to you about the agony my daughter, Katie, has experienced in Albany, fighting for Rent Control with Tenants and Neighbors, this last year and especially these last months of corruption and carelessness, ineptness and incompetence. It is hard for a 30 year old to lose so much innocence so often. It is also hard for a mother and father to watch it happen and to be utterly powerlessness to stop it.
It was supposed to flirt with the companion texts to the temple text – the promise Jesus makes to go to make a DWELLING PLACE for us and the promise he makes to his disciples that “in my father’s house there are many mansions.” It wanted to sing with K about how loss of place and space moves beautifully in and out of much rap music.
Then a 21 year old shot 9 people in Charleston and ever since then I have been flummoxed. All the smart people have already weighed in. Jamil Smith: “This is the opposite of sanctuary. Space is closing in on us.”. The mayor of Charleston, himself still undecided about the values and virtues of the Confederate flag, also said, “We can’t have nation where we have to put up security guards to do bible study.
by Mona T. Han
These past few weeks, like most of you, I have awoken reeling from the news of the unbelievably tragic and illogical massacre at a historic black church in Charleston, which in the words of the shooter was motivated by racism. Soon after the Charleston incident, there was major movement from many in social media, TV, and even messages from presidential hopefuls about the banning of the confederate flag after learning that the Charleston shooter was obsessed with the flag as a symbol of white supremacy.
from Grace Baptist Church, Statesville, NC
Another brutal, senseless killing. Families left to tread in the black, murky waters of grief. People rushing to stake their claims on different cultural issues, talking past each other and seldom listening. And we continue to become a more polarized people. The NRA, at its defensive best, feverishly works to resist any kind of regulation and sees as its patriotic duty to allow for a well-armed citizenry. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is their ongoing mantra. In their opinion, the fault lies with mental illness, not the prevalence and proliferation of weapons. OK, that is a point that could be debated in some measure. If that is even partially true and the NRA cares for this nation as it says it does, why not reach into their vast storehouse of wealth and contribute to the research and treatment of mental illness. Do something besides defend the right to bear arms.
from Rev. Stephen Price, interim pastor at Heritage Baptist Church in Annapolis, MD.
What would happen if, instead of trying to deal piecemeal with each new group of "outsiders," we trusted Jesus and said, "this is Christ's table and all are welcome here." We cannot say this about the Communion Table unless we are also willing to say it about all the "tables" in the life of our culture. The only requirement for a seat at the table is that we don't get to decide who else is welcome here.
from Rev. Amy Butler, pastor at Riverside Church in NYC
Our prayers and our hearts go out to the families of the nine precious lives lost, to the congregation of Emanuel AME Church, and to the city of Charleston, SC.
Tragedies such as these confront us with hard questions. As people of faith, how can we speak words of peace and reconciliation when even our houses of worship cannot provide sanctuary from the violence and hatred in our world? How can we proclaim all lives are cherished and beloved by God when our brothers and sisters are targeted for the color of their skin? How can we hope for a culture of peace and justice when we do not even have the courage to limit the use of deadly weapons in our society?
from the Rhode Island State Council of Churches
We reach out in loving concern to the people of Charleston, South Carolina, and especially the members and friends of the individuals who were slain while attending a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last night. We not only honor the life of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney who lost his life shepherding his flock, but we also honor those who were gathered in prayer and reflection. Houses of worship must be safe havens for all who are in distress and seeking God. When any sacred space is violated, all faith communities are diminished.
from former BPFNA board member Ben Sanders
Frankly, it doesn't take much courage to be righteously indignant about the killings in Charleston. These killings were, after all, carried out by the type of racist we've been given permission to despise--the overt kind. In the United States, we're allowed and even encouraged to be express unapologetic righteous indignation when an overt white supremacist opens deadly fire at a black church during prayer. What's more difficult and what takes more courage, is drawing connections between the actions of Dylan Storm Roof and the daily conduct of "Law Enforcement" all across this country. The connections between the shootings at Emanuel AME Church and those carried out by police reveal a history of anti-black racism in this land that predates 1776.
from Kristin Stoneking and FOR
To die violently and at the hands of hate in a place of worship, a place that is supposed to be inviolable, a place imbued with the energy of prayers spoken and shouted, hymns sung and moaned, bodies hugged and loved, is an unspeakable violation of goodness and justice in the world.
The Fellowship of Reconciliation stands in solidarity and grief with the Emanuel AME Church, the community of Charleston, and the families and friends of the faithful now gone from our midst.
from Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, KY; offered by Associate Pastor Nina Maples during services on Sunday, June 28.
We pause in this moment to name our great sadness over the death of our brothers and sisters in Charleston who were killed in a terrible act of violence and hate. We stand in disbelief that prejudice and hate have once again ripped a wound in the heart of our nation, and we ache for the families who are having to endure this atrocity.
Holy God, we cannot stand and point a finger at others without confessing to you those secret pockets of prejudice in our own hearts, and we pray that your Love and Light might continue to transform us so that we might be instruments of your peace in this broken world.
May your Spirit continue to trouble our hearts over the evil that roams unbridled through our cities, for as long as there is hate in this world we have work to do. Empower us to be the light in the darkness that bears witness to your hope, your mercy, and your transforming Love.
Lord we long for the day when peace and justice will prevail, for we believe that ultimately Love does has the final word. We offer our hearts and our prayers this day in the name of the one who is the prince of peace, Jesus Christ our Lord.
from Rev. Greg Thomas, pastor at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Danielson, CT
Please keep our community, state, nation and world in your prayers. We are in deep need of God's Shalom - the well-being of all of God's children.
Please pray for all of those directly effected by the murders of nine sisters and brothers at the AMC Emmanuel church in S. Carolina.
Likewise please keep our country in your prayers as we continue to struggle with the legacy of Slavery, Jim Crow, and the still ongoing battle for civil rights for all of our minority population in the US.
Please pray also for those whose hearts are filled with hate and bigotry, that they may come to understand that we are all God's children and thus have the right to live lives of dignity, in peace and safety.
a hymn from Carolyn Winfrey Gillette
They met to read the Bible,
they gathered for a prayer,
They worshiped God and shared with friends
and welcomed strangers there.
They went to church to speak of love,
To celebrate God’s grace.
O Lord, we tremble when we hear
What happened in that place.
from Showing Up for Racial Justice
Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) is horrified and saddened, though not surprised by the terrorist attack at Charleston's Emanuel A.M.E. church yesterday. As white people, we are committed to speaking up and taking action against this and other deadly attacks on black lives from the murder of Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Rekia Boyd in Chicago, and so many more.
from BPFNA member Jann Aldredge Clanton
Joining people all around our country, I grieve over the terrible tragedy that occurred at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. My heart is broken over this racially motivated hate crime, and my heart goes out to all who are suffering from this heinous act of violence.
When will there be an end to all this violence? What can we do as individuals and as faith communities to help end the violence?
from Rev. Rick Mixon, Pastor of FBC Palo Alto
Yesterday, the horrible news of mass murder – by gun violence! – at a historic African American church in the South. The shooter had been welcomed to the Bible study/prayer meeting before opening fire, killing the pastor and 8 others gathered to study and pray. The President, clearly frustrated, raised for us again the heavy price we pay for allowing ourselves to be held hostage by the gun lobby in this country. And the reality that we continue to sow seeds of bigotry and racial hatred yields an unspeakable harvest of death and destruction.
When will we ever learn?
a poem by BPFNA member and former board President Cheryl Dudley
has been knocked loose
gape wide open and reveal
a hideous seeping wound -
to a bloodied bruised spot
battered over and over and over
from Believe Out Loud
Late on Wednesday evening a white gunman fatally shot nine black people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina before fleeing the scene and evading local police...
As we struggle with the reality of this hatred and violence—our request is simple. We ask that you continue to uplift the lives of the black community in your prayers.
We ALL are responsible in stopping this lineage of violence.
from Suzii Paynter, CBF Executive Coordinator & Jay Kieve, CBF of South Carolina Coordinator
About a dozen pulpits in partner congregations across the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship stood empty and draped in black on Sunday. This, in solidarity with the historic Emanuel AME Church of Charleston, S.C., after the deaths of its pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, and eight others last week in an act of racially motivated, hate-filled violence.
Also killed were the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, the Rev. Dr. Daniel L. Simmons, Sr., the Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lee Lance, Cynthia Hurd and Susie Jackson.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and CBF of South Carolina stand with the Emanuel AME congregation and the families of the nine victims in this time of grief. We pray for a sense of God's peace in the wake of this tragedy and that God would bind both our wounds and bind us together across our divisions in responding for good.
from Dialogue Institute Southwest - Dialogue Institute Southwest works to promote mutual understanding, respect and cooperation among people of diverse faiths and cultures by creating opportunities for direct communication and meaningful shared experiences.
Dialogue Institute vehemently condemns the brutal actions of Dylan Roof, arrested yesterday morning for killing nine people during a Bible study on June 17th. The shooting took place at approximately 9 p.m. at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Among the nine victims was the church pastor Clementa Pickney, who also served as state senator and a community leader.
from Boyd Myers
After the events this week in Charleston, where and how to place efforts is indeed puzzling. The heartfelt pain has to be captured and put to remedial use.
We (as white Americans..my subgroup if you will) are 'loudly silent' in our complicit standing back, so how do we create dialogue with those who have such fear and hate? Yes, we can and do pray.
from Rev. Kevin Cosby (St. Stephen Baptist Church); Rev. Chris Caldwell (Broadway Baptist Church); Rev. Joseph Phelps (Highland Baptist Church); Rev. Bruce Williams (Bates Memorial Baptist Church)
Rev. Joseph Phelps is the pastor at Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, KY (a BPFNA Partner Congregation).
The events in Charleston, while tragic beyond words, are but the latest in a string of recent stories revealing how, despite the 1860s Herculean effort to changes our country's laws, the spiritual truth behind these laws has yet to reach the literate and religious hearts of white Americans. Charleston, Ferguson, Baltimore, Staten Island, and quietly but potently in Louisville reveal patterns of fear-fueled disdain that continue to inform the experience of black Americans in 2015.
It is time for another war -- a war on fear and racism.
This war will not employ guns and grenades but the non-violent tactics of the 1960s civil rights movement, targeted at capturing hearts even as it liberates cities like Louisville from the residual effects of slavery.
from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina
Almighty God, who created all people in your image, we gather before you this morning, in solidarity with people all around the country, with heavy hearts over the tragic events that took place in Charleston, SC this week.
from The Shalom Center
We have hung our heads and cried,
Cried for the ones who had to die,
Died for you and died for me,
Died for the cost of equality.
But we'll never turn back
Until we all have been freed
And we’ll have equality.
No, we'll never turn back,
No, we'll never turn back.
The song is from 50 years ago. And 200 years before that. And today.