Mother Emanuel and the power of prayer

Mother Emanuel and the power of prayer

_83773972_83773971BBC News – On Sunday, hundreds of people returned to Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina, four days after after a shooting there killed nine African-Americans. The BBC’s Rajini Vaidyanathan was part of the congregation.
There are five chairs at the altar in the Emanuel Church.
But the one in the middle was vacant today, draped instead with a black cloth.
This used to be Reverend Clementa Pinckney’s seat. This used to be his congregation. And in many ways it always will be.

The visiting pastors, who occupied the seats beside his, were here to provide strength and inspiration to the gathered crowds. That they did.
But, at times, when they were seated staring ahead, the pain etched on their faces was too hard to hide.
They’d lost one of their own. Everyone in the room felt they’d lost friends.
People from all backgrounds, races and faiths packed the main church, cooling themselves from the oppressive heat with paper fans, which fluttered in unison.

Some had come from as far as Florida and Atlanta. One, a young Jewish woman from Denver, said she was here to show solidarity.
It’s less than a week since the unthinkable happened here – on the floor below the main church, during a prayer meeting.
In a remarkable show of resilience, the basement, the very room where the gunman unleashed his hate, was also open, serving as an overflow room for worshippers who watched the service on television screens.
In the far corner were framed photos of pastors who’ve been at the helm of this historic church. The Rev Pinckney’s smiling face, the last in the row.
The wood panelled walls, the white plastic chairs, the tables covered in lace and the colourful cardboard sign that asks “What is faith?” were all here the night the gunman struck.
Today they remain. The signs of horror have been cleared away, but memories of the nine members of the Bible study group whose lives were cut short will linger forever.

“What is faith?” some have wondered after the shooting.
Why did innocent fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons have to die in this way?
However it’s defined, people here felt its overwhelming presence in the room, a room where the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments hang, and where the victims said their very last prayers.
Back in the main church, worshippers were joined by the Governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, and Charleston’s mayor, Joseph P Riley, who sat in the front row listening intently to the sermons.
“We are reminded this morning about the freshness of death that comes like a thief in the night,” said the Reverend Norvel Goff.
But mortality hadn’t stolen people’s spirit.
The service was uplifting and upbeat – people leapt to their feet as a singer sang ‘Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine’, accompanied on the saxophone.
They clapped, they danced, they sang.
As the heat soared, and emotions came to a crescendo, Red Cross volunteers and policemen handed out bottles of water and tissues.

The names of the victims were then read out, one by one.
Clementa Pinckney
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton
Tywanza Sanders
Ethel Lance
Susie Jackson
Cynthia Hurd
Myra Thompson
Daniel Simmons Sr
DePayne Middleton-Doctor
The church organ played as people knelt at the altar to say private prayers. Some could be heard wailing.
The cries of grief will ring out for years to come, but people here also want to focus on spreading affection.
“May we realise the power of love,” said one pastor. It’s a sentiment many are invoking as a way to find strength in such dark times.
One of the songs during the service was Amazing Grace – an attribute people here and across this city have shown in the past few days in remarkable acts of forgiveness and dignity.

Categories: Headlines, U.S.

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