Once again, we awakened to horrifying news. Or perhaps we learned of the senseless killings at Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston last night, before going to bed, and then had a troubled sleep.
Pray for the members of that congregation, and for all who grieve at the devastating losses they have suffered. Nine persons, including their pastor, gathered for bible study and a prayer meeting, and were killed after welcoming a stranger into their midst. Even as I write this, it is becoming clear that this was an attack motivated by racial hatred.
This is not the first time that Emanuel Church has confronted such hatred. Affectionately known as “Mother Emanuel,” it is the oldest AME congregation in the south. An article from the Washington Post notes:
“This historic congregation, the oldest of its kind in the South, had already seen more than its fair share of tumult and hate. It was founded by worshipers fleeing racism and burned to the ground for its connection with a thwarted slave revolt. For years its meetings were conducted in secret to evade laws that banned all-black services. It was jolted by an earthquake in 1886. Civil rights luminaries spoke from its pulpit and led marches from its steps. For nearly two hundred years it had been the site of struggle, resistance and change.”
Today, it is once again a site of struggle, of profound grief, and I believe, of resilient faith. A congregation that has endured as a witness to the Gospel will continue to do so. As I join my prayers with others, in the midst of whatever despair I feel, I am moved by the very name of that church- Mother Emanuel. Emanuel – God with us – Christ – enfolding us with a mother’s embrace, taking into the divine heart all of the grief, and with a mother’s strong arms lifting up those who are overcome, giving faith and strength with which to endure.