In the wake of what officials termed a “hate crime” at a historic black church in Charleston, worshippers around the Rock Hill area crossed religious and denominational lines for a series of vigils and prayer services to help the community recover in the wake of the tragedy.
About a dozen people gathered in Fountain Park at noon in an impromptu prayer vigil for the victims of Wednesday’s mass shooting in Charleston.
The Christians Feed the Hungry ministry joined with Emmanuel Church of the Nazarene to honor those who died in the apparently racially-motivated shooting.
“Even in the house of God, the enemy came in to destroy,” said the Rev. Ronal King. “Yesterday was Charleston’s time. Today could be ours or yours.”
King’s ministry had been coordinating with Emmanuel to deliver fans to homes without air conditioning dealing with the heat, but when they heard about the previous evening’s shooting, came together to say a quick prayer next to the fountain.
The Fountain Park vigil was just one organized in the wake of yesterday’s slaying. Rock Hill’s AME Zion Church is also holding a prayer vigil Thursday night for victims of Wednesday’s shooting.
Later in the evening, a crowd of about a hundred filled the pews at the Kenneth Monroe Transformation Center of the AME Zion Church on Saluda Street.
Nine people died in a shooting Wednesday night during Bible study at Emmanuel AME Church, a sister church of the AME Zion Church.
Both white and black joined together for the singing of hymns, Scripture readings from several pastors from around the area and the state, and prayers for strength, faith and community. At one point, worshipers reached over the pews to clasp hands as they sought understanding through prayer.
A second vigil was held at 7 p.m. at Rock Hill’s AME affiliated-church, Adam’s Chapel on West Main Street.
Rev. Jacques Days, pastor of Adam’s Chapel AME, also gave an impassioned speech at the Transformation Center event on behalf of his denomination. When looking at the “massive pain and loss” caused by the shooter’s bullets, “one shudders at the thought that such an act could be conceived by the mind of a human being.”
But by Thursday night, “the leadership of the Charleston church has joined with the leaders of the community in a demonstration of family and togetherness,” Days said. “Tonight, there are prayer vigils all over the state.”
Rev. Kenneth Monroe, presiding bishop of the AME Zion South Atlantic district, closed the service by noting “the Christian church finds herself in another strange place.
“It is unsettling to think that in the midst of the symbols of God, we could still be in a dangerous place,” Monroe said.
But Monroe told those at the prayer service that they lifted his spirits.
“When I put out the call, I didn’t know who would come, or if anyone would come,” he said. “My heart is lifted to know there are still people of God out there.”
In a racially mixed crowd, Rev. Neill McKay of Beth Shiloh Presbyterian Church in York was the only white pastor to participate in the service, reading from the Epistle to the Romans. He was asked to participate by the AME pastor in the Western York ministerial association, just weeks after pastors had a viewing of the film “Selma.”
“It’s just horrifying,” McKay said of Wednesday’s events. “We have to come together as brothers and sisters in Christ to speak out against racism. This young man wasn’t born this way; he was taught. And it’s our job to say ‘no.’”
Bristow Marchant • 803-329-4062