In an effort to send light and love through what are undoubtedly tough times in Charleston, South Carolina, the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church held its first church service after the Charleston shooting last week that saw nine people killed.
While Charleston shooting main suspect Dylann Roof was in custody, the mood at one of the oldest black churches in the U.S. was reverent and filled with a melancholy celebration. Reverend Norvel Goff commended the crowd of both black and white parishioners, who were singing and shaking tambourines, for responding to the shootings compassionately. Goff appeared shaken when he knelt at Reverend Clementa Pinckney’s former seat. Pinckney was among those killed in the Charleston shooting.
Goff remained firm in his resolve to see the church continue service as it usually would. “No evildoer, no demon in hell or on Earth can close the doors of God’s church,” he stated.
Roof’s motivation in the Charleston shooting appears to be racially charged. He has been photographed wearing the apartheid-era flags of both Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa in photographs on his Facebook page, and witness accounts point to racial slurs made by the suspect throughout the massacre. Regardless of motivation, the Charleston community has rallied, with churches throughout the region wanting to build relationships with each other.
At nearby St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, church rector Alfred T.K. Zadig Jr. noted that he really knew no one from Emmanuel AME Church. The Charleston shooting tragedy has helped him to realize, he says, how important the relationships are between the local churches. St. Michael’s is now inviting members of the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church to come and preach in an effort to form connections between the two congregations.
Some of African-American descent say that they believe it is massacres such as the Charleston shooting that make them leery about forming relationships with the white community. “You want to have white friends, but it’s hard to trust white people when things like this happen,” said Michael K. Brown, an African-American cabdriver.
A rally was also planned for Sunday evening to show solidarity between the two races that make up Charleston. In the aftermath of the Charleston shooting, there has also been calls to remove the Confederate flag, long thought to be a symbol of racism, from government flagpoles and buildings. While that has not yet happened, it is clear that the Charleston shooting has truly caused much commentary and debate about racism and diversity.
[Photo by Joe Raedle / Getty Images]