St. John United Methodist Church holds prayer vigil for slain Emmanuel AME shooting victims
St. John’s Pastor, the Rev. Dr. Osunlana, presided over the somber ceremony.
By Charles Moseley
Nine African American church members from the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were gunned down by Dylan Storm Roof, a 21-year-old white male, while they attended Bible Study last Wednesday night, June 17th, in Charleston, S.C., Just two days removed from the terrible incident, thousands of miles away, a South Florida church held a prayer vigil to honor those killed.
On the night of the shooting Roof entered Emanuel AME Church, asking to see the church’s pastor by name. He reportedly spent about an hour with church members during bible study before brandishing a gun and ordering church members to lie face down on the floor. Roof then fired on the victims only pausing to methodically reload his gun and continued shooting execution style, as others lay dying on the floor.
According to national news reports, the 21-year-old was caught a day after the shooting on Thursday morning (June 18) in Shelby, N.C.
“I can confirm there is a suspect in custody,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told the outlet.
During the prayer vigil a candle was lit and prayers delivered for the shooting victims. Remembered during the prayer vigil: Pastor Clementa Pinckney, 41, Emmanuel AME Church and former South Carolina State Senator, Cynthia Hurd, 54, Charleston Public Library, St. Andrews Regional Branch Manager, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, church pastor, speech therapist, Goose Creek High Girl’s Track Coach, Tywanza Sanders, 26, Allen University Business School graduate, Ethel Lance, 70, retired Gailliard Center employee and church janitor, Susie Jack-son, 87, Lance’s cousin and long-time church member, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, a retired director of the local Community Block Grant Program, became a part of the church’s ministerial staff in March, Myra Thompson, 59, pastor at the church, and Daniel Simmons, Sr., 74. a church pastor, who died at the hospital’s operating room.
The prayer vigil drew both Blacks and whites, young and old, local residents and included some who were in town visiting the church from North Carolina, ironically the state where the young shooting suspect was apprehended.
St. John’s Pastor, the Reverend Dr. Simon Osunlana, presided over the somber ceremony whose theme was: “Love Never Fails.”
“When I heard of the horrific shooting and the death of nine people, I have mixed emotions: sadness, sorrow, anger to name a few. The only one emotion I did not have is hate. As I was thinking and praying about it, the Scripture that came to my mind is 1 Corinthians 13:8a: “Love never fails.
“I understand those who have expressed their frustration that this reminds them of many recent murders of un-armed young Black men across the country. In addition this should also remind us of mass killings in Sandy Hook Elementary School, Virginia Tech, Aurora Colorado, Fort Hood, Tex. to mention a few, where people of all races were gunned down by mass murderers, who I dare to call domestic terrorists.
“We can no longer be indifferent to these problems. Indifference to guns in the hands of racists kills innocent people. Indifference to guns in the hands of criminals kills both civilians and law enforcement agents. Indifference to guns in the hands of hateful people young and old is a recipe for mass killing. Our elected officials cannot continue to be indifferent. After mourning the lives of these innocent men and women, we as a nation must have a soul searching and put love of human lives above love of money. We must have a sensible gun control law in this nation.”
Rev. Dr. Rosalind Osgood, an associate pastor at the New Mount Olive Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale and Broward County School Board member, weighed in on the need for stricter gun control laws as well as directing attention on what she considered the root of the problem occurring across the nation.
“I agree that gun laws must be reformed. They allow unnecessary access to guns. However, Travon Martin’s death or the recent massacre in Charleston, S.C. was not about guns. The murders were about racism. The perpetrators were racist. They killed individuals because of the color of their skin. The South Carolina killings made me reflect on the 1998 murder of James Byrd. Mr. Byrd was executed by three racist white men. Mr. Bush being one of them, beat Mr. Byrd with a bat and then drug him behind a truck until he died. Many other people of color have been aggressively murdered or denied opportunities because of racism.
“Roof is a 21-year-old white racist. His awful brutal attack was not about religion. I’m certain that many religious groups were meeting at that same time for prayer. He chose Emanuel African American Episcopal Church because Black folk were there. He wanted to kill Blacks. He learned to be a racist from some adults or some of his peers that learned it from some adults. If adults are racist then the children they influence will be racist. Racism is learned. It is wrong no matter who or what it targets.
“What can we do now? Racism is an evil spirit that finds its genesis in power, privilege and prejudice. I believe that it is taught. I don’t believe that anybody is born a racist. Racists hate others because of the color of their skin – it’s not DNA related. Racism is an evil that must be conquered. We cannot conquer what we won’t confront. Racism is wrong. God has called us to live in community in a more excellent way and that way is LOVE. Let’s not limit our focus on just guns. This is a bigger issue that we must deal with or our children will continue to suffer and people will continue to die,” concluded Dr. Osgood.