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Lamentation for Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church

My heart broke along with thousands of others on Thursday morning when I woke to hear the news that nine of God’s beloved children had been murdered as they sat praying and receiving the words of scripture into their lives at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The next piece of horror was that the gunman sat alongside these people of faith throughout their Bible Study. He had been welcomed into this faithful community, and then, spewing words of hatred, he stood and callously shot the Pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney and eight other faithful members of the Mother Emanuel community, killing them all, before running away into the night. It is one more hideous act of violence in a series that can cause us to go numb or turn away in despair.

But we cannot give in to despair or be silent. I invite everyone at Grace Church and in this community of the Berkshires to first cry to God who is our savior to surround the people of Mother Emanuel A.M.E Church with the love that passes understanding as they mourn the loss of their shepherd the Rev. Pinckney, as they try to comfort their children, as they grieve the loss of the people they love and depend on, and seek to reclaim from hate their house of worship that has stood for almost two centuries as a beacon of freedom and sanctuary. I invite you to pray for each person who died and hold them in your hearts. These people were leaders in the community. They had come to church to find in the words of scripture, guidance and inspiration to inform their lives. They carried their faith in God who loves us all into the world where they worked with young people as a coach, a speech therapist and a counselor, opened minds to great possibilities as a librarian and an educator, and served in ministry as a retired pastor, a clergy spouse, and the sexton of the church. Some of the best among us have been savagely taken. Please pray for each of them and their families by name.

I also invite us all to ask for forgiveness for our complicity in this unspeakable crime. We live in a country where racial discrimination and intimidation is alive and well. We ask too few questions. We are called by our baptismal covenant to “strive for justice and peace” and “to respect the dignity of every human being.” Our call as Christians is to love our neighbors and that requires a commitment to action. Love is not a sentimental phrase, it is a way of being. We must learn to speak out when words or actions diminish or disrespect any human being. We must commit to learn more and to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who once again have been ravaged by the sin of hatred and violence. Let us pray and stand together saying, “No more! Not in our name.” We all must face that this is our problem. It is ours to own. It is ours to do something about, right now. May God in her mercy be with us all and especially with the members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

People murdered at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday, June 17:

The Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney

Ms. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton

Ms. Cynthia Hurd

Ms. Susie Jackson

Ms. Ethel Lee Lance

Ms. DePayne Middleton-Doctor

Mr. Tywanza Sanders

The Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons

Ms. Myra Thompson