CHARLESTON—Participants in a prayer circle at Neighborhood House held hands under a blazing sun Friday and called for God to bring us peace, help us heal and love one another.
“Everyone needs to be a messenger of love to all people, with no age or race barriers,” said Pastor Kay Colleton with the Manna Life Center. She was speaking specifically to the shooting of nine people at Emanuel AME Church just two days ago, although the prayer outreach had been planned for many months and covered a broad scope.
The prayers at the community outreach were among a huge outpouring offered up all over the city, the state, and the nation for those who lost their lives in a senseless massacre after a young man entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston and, after sitting with the prayer group for over an hour, suddenly pulled a gun and opened fire.
The nine people killed included State Senator and church pastor Clementa Pinckney, 41; Cynthia Hurd, 54; Susie Jackson, 87; Ethel Lance, 70; the Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49; Tywanza Sanders, 26; the Rev. Daniel Simmons, 74, who died at MUSC; the Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45; and Myra Thompson, 59.
Across town, Blessed Sacrament Church held a special Mass paying respect to those who died and calling for peace and unity.
Father Joseph Romanoski spoke in the homily about a time that he himself felt anger and hatred toward someone who wronged him. He said it is normal, but urged people to turn away from that path and do the right thing.
It is a sentiment echoed by many religious leaders, regardless of denomination, as voices clamor loudly in the days following the shooting. Some are filled with fury and call for retribution, while others beseech people to come together in prayer and healing.
Father Romanoski asked that everyone stay connected to the source of love and life and turn away from hatred.
Family members of the victims gave a vivid demonstration of following Jesus as they stood before the man accused of murdering their loved ones and offered him forgiveness.
“[You] took something very precious away from me,” said a daughter of Ethel Lance. “I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. May God forgive you,” she said. “And I forgive you,” she repeated.
The statement came at a bond hearing for Dylann Roof, 21, who has been charged with nine counts of murder and possession of a firearm. Reports state that he confessed to the killings, which occurred at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston during Bible study Wednesday night.
The city and the country reacted in shock, asking “Why!?”
It is a sentiment echoed by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone.
“When I first heard about the massacre at Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston, I was devastated. How could something so heinous occur in the Holy City? How could anyone’s heart be filled with so much hate?” he wrote in a statement to all parishioners.
“On behalf of the Catholic faithful in South Carolina, I offer my deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and to the members of Emanuel AME Church. I pray that everyone affected by this horror will feel the comforting presence of our Lord surrounding them during this difficult time.”
The bishop will participate in a prayer vigil hosted by Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley at the TD Arena on Friday at 6 p.m.
Photos: Miscellany/Victoria Wain