Charleston Shooting Black Church Attacks

In this photo taken June 19, 2015, photos of the victims of the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., are held during a vigil at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington. The black church has long been the cornerstone and sanctuary for African American life. It has also long been a target for racists and white supremacists trying to strike blows against the African American psyche. The latest attack came Wednesday in Charleston, South Carolina, when 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof joined a prayer meeting inside historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and shot nine people dead, including the pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, and other ministers. (AP Photo/Glynn A. Hill)

WASHINGTON – A number of clergy members and hundreds of D.C. area residents from various religious backgrounds gathered at Metropolitan AME Church June 19 out of their respect for the lives of nine people killed at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.

“I am grateful that God’s greatness is not diminished by tragedy,” Rev. Tony Lee, senior pastor of Community of Hope AME Church in Temple Hill, Md., said during the prayer vigil. “We pray for the healing of community….We are here from all different views, from all different backgrounds, from all different stations in life believing that the Lord can make a way.”

During the vigil, Lee spoke of an experience with a White Uber driver in Charleston. He said the driver told him that something happened in his heart after he heard Christians were killed in church.

Lee told the congregation that the driver showed him that “sometimes it takes great pain to bring great healing… God was still in the midst of it all.”

Churchgoers leaned on the Lord for guidance and strength, praying for the families of the victims: Cynthia Hurd, 54; Susie Jackson, 87; Ethel Lance, 70; Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49; Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45; Myra Thompson, 59.

Robert Pruitt, the son of Metropolitan’s former pastor, knew Pinckney personally and told the AFRO he felt great sorrow over the whole situation.

“The gunman (Dylann Roof) did what he knew. doesn’t mean we like it, love it or need to condone it,” he said. “But if that’s what he knew then what is the opportunity for each of us to be a difference in someone’s life?”

Throughout the vigil clergymen spoke of forgiveness and prayer as paths to heal from the Charleston shooting, which has been described as a massacre by various media outlets. However, the shooting is not new in Black culture as it bears a morbid resemblance to the church bombing that claimed the lives of four little girls in the 1960s and the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

“I remember the bombing of the Birmingham church and the killing of four young girls. At the time, I was a student in college when the Black non-violent preacher was killed on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. And now, nine God-fearing, good people were the victims of an unspeakable evil that has ravaged our nation,” the Rev. Dr. Ronald E. Braxton, presiding elder of the Potomac District, told the AFRO in an email June 19.

The vigil included Negro spiritual songs such as “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “Great is Thy Faithfulness” along with musical selections from local musicians and remarks from political officials including Councilwoman LaRuby May (Ward 8), Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and a representative for Mayor Muriel Bowser.

A panel of clergymen, including Braxton; Bishop William P. DeVeaux, presiding prelate Second Episcopal District, AME Church; Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, Episcopal Diocese of Washington; and Rev. Gary Hall, Washington National Cathedral, assembled after to hold a press conference to discuss solutions to reach both parishioners and other individuals in efforts to prevent future tragic events such as the shooting.

“We’re not creating a community that is worthy of them (millennials). It is totally on us, we failed you, we just totally failed you,” Budde told the AFRO when asked how to reach the millennial generation, the age group to which the alleged shooter in Charleston belonged. “Why would you join a church that isn’t engaged with what you care about and talking about the things that matter to you and treat you as an appendage and not your own person and your own right?”

She added that communities reflect the values that matter to rising generations.