Charleston, South Carolina is called “the holy city” because of the numerous churches in its downtown area. The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was established in 1816 and has been a place where bigotry and hatred have been experienced in previous centuries. While racism is still a problem, no one could have suspected that a young white man would appear at a bible study and brutally kill nine people who were meeting there in the church basement. Included in those who were killed is the Senior Pastor, Clementa Pinckney, one with influence far past the four walls of the church, even into the state senate. It was an unholy moment in what is known a holy place.
Just four days after the tragedy, the church reopened it’s doors and its’ members stood with thousands of others in their city across a bridge to show their unity. It was the body of Christ in a city coming together to love and support one another, regardless of the color of one’s skin. Christians from all over the nation and the world have been praying and asking God to do a powerful, healing work.
In a remarkable showing of grace, several of the victims’ families had the opportunity to address the shooter who was in custody. They all said the same phrase, “I forgive you.” The world doesn’t know what to do with this kind of exquisite grace; it doesn’t make sense to those who belong to the world’s approach. This response has captivated a nation and inspired many.
Upon reopening the church, an elder said, “The doors of the church are open, praise be to God.” “No evildoer, no demon in hell or on Earth can close the doors of God’s church.” The people of “Mother Emmanuel” church are overcomers. They are walking through their grief and through this valley of the shadow of death very well. I can’t imagine the pain and anguish that the church family is experiencing. Long after the glow of the camera crews and national media are gone, the children who lost parents and grandparents will still grieve and mourn.
It has been puzzling for me to understand how we can stand in unity with such people of grace. I find that I want to do something to make a difference; I want to imitate their faith and courage. One suggestion is to join in unity with the body of Christ here in Chico through prayer.
This Sunday evening—Chico City Prayer will be meeting at Second Baptist Church. Our theme, Heaven’s Wisdom (James 3:13-18), will be presented by Pastor Joseph Kiwovele. Following this, we will break into small groups for prayer, asking that this wisdom would characterize Jesus’ Church in our city.
The response of the congregation at Emanuel AME Church has captured the moral high ground—something that cannot be ignored by national and international media. We will be praying for them at this meeting, asking for healing and continued grace to display their trust in Jesus to a watching world.
Consider joining us at Chico City Prayer, 7:00 p.m. Sunday, June 28 at Second Baptist Church, 1053 Ohio Street.