Friday, June 17, 2016, was the first anniversary of the slaying of the nine members of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. They were murdered during their weekly Bible Study. Among those slain was State Senator Clementa C. Pinckney, the Pastor of Emanuel A.M.E. Church.
ACLC clergy supported a Press Announcement and Prayer in Harlem led by the Concerned Clergy of New York, held on the street in front of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. The Reverend Dr. Luonne Abram Rouse, Pastor of the United Methodist Church of Huntington-Cold Spring Harbor, New York, announced a nine-day prayer for Peace and Reconciliation in memory of the Emanuel Nine. It will conclude with a memorial service at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina on Friday, June 24, 2016.
“Love must overcome hatred,” Dr. Rouse said. “Through prayer and strengthening our relationship with God we all will win.” Dr. Rouse knows all too well about the racism that was at the core of the senseless killing at Emanuel. He also knows the process of overcoming this scourge. In 1986, Dr. Rouse became the first African-American United Methodist Pastor of a predominately white congregation in South Carolina. He knows that prayer, trust in God, and love can win over hatred and division.
He asked all to pray “during these next 9 days leading up to the memorial at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina on Friday, June 24, 2016.”
A second speaker was Ambassador Suzan Johnson “Sujay” Cook, a Presidential Adviser to President Bill Clinton who later served as the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom for President Barack Obama. She is a former pastor and is now running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, seeking to represent the people of New York’s 13th Congressional District. Rev. Dr. Cook began by mentioning that her prayers go out to those recently killed in Orlando, Florida, to their families and to the LGBT community.
As former Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, she knows well the struggles that people face throughout the world. She believes that all religions must come together in love and in respect of one another. Rev. Cook mentioned how Emanuel AME Church is a church known for its hospitality, and they even welcomed the crazed young man who murdered nine members of the congregation. Ambassador Cook noted how the horrific shootings brought the church and community together in oneness after the tragedy. She personally knew and deeply respected Rev. Dr. Clementa C. Pickney. In memory of the Emanuel Nine, Rev. Cook called out the names and ages of each of the deceased. She is also a good friend of the new Pastor at Emanuel A.M.E., the Reverend Dr. Betty Deas Clark. Ambassador Cook offered her best wishes to Dr. Clark and Emanuel during their journey of healing.
Rev. Dr. Michael Jenkins, Chairman Emeritus of the American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC), gave a moving reflection on the deep faith and love of the people of Charleston. Their incredible act of forgiveness is a dynamic example of how to overcome racial hatred and division. Instead of playing into the hopes of the killer, who sought to stir up further racial tension and division, the people of Charleston chose to put faith in a loving and forgiving God as their weapon for healing after a tragic loss. Dr. Jenkins noted that the events in Ferguson and Baltimore turned violent because people who were not people of faith tried to address the real problems. However, in Charleston members of the victims’ families applied Jesus’ teaching with love and forgiveness, knowing that the judgement of the guilty is ultimately in God’s hands. This also stirred the churches to come together in the spirit of the Lord, and thus the terrible tragedy did not lead to burning buildings but led to hearts coming together to fight against evil with the power of love and unity.
To conclude the event, Reverend Juanita Pierre-Louis, the Pastor of the Harlem Family Church, gave a warm and comforting prayer.
contributed by Rev. Bruce Grodner, ACLC National Outreach Director