Pastor: ‘Forgiveness’ is word of the day as Charleston marks 6 years since church shooting

Published: Jun. 17, 2021 at 3:53 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 8:19 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Six years ago Thursday, gunfire erupted inside Mother Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston.

The shooting happened during the final prayer at the end of a Wednesday night Bible study and claimed nine lives, including the church’s senior pastor:

  • The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41
  • Cynthia Graham Hurd, 54
  • Susie Jackson, 87
  • Ethel Lance, 70
  • Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49
  • Tywanza Sanders, 26
  • Rev. Daniel Simmons, 74
  • Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45
  • Myra Thompson, 59

The Rev. Eric Manning, Mother Emanuel’s pastor, said Thursday night forgiveness is the word of the day, referencing a Bible study held Wednesday night on that topic.

He said families of the victims continue to express it and two family members presented their own stories of forgiving Dylann Roof, the man sentenced to death in the shooting.

“Each one, of course, had a different path. But at the end of the day, both were willing to forgive Dylann Roof and that’s a tremendous blessing,” Manning said. “And we continue to thank God for their strength and for their courage.”

A virtual forgiveness forum was scheduled for Thursday night from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., designed to give attendees the chance to hear from family and church members as well as a survivor “as they reflect on the meaning of “forgiveness, reconciliation and social justice as it relates to healing,” the event’s page states.

Mother Emanuel AME is also holding a virtual worship service Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. The service will celebrate not only Father’s Day but will also include a remembrance of the nine victims.

City of Charleston donates $2M to Emanuel 9 Memorial

The Emanuel 9: The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Ethel Lance, the Rev. DePayne Middleton, the Rev....
The Emanuel 9: The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Ethel Lance, the Rev. DePayne Middleton, the Rev. Daniel Simmons, Cynthia Graham Hurd, Myra Thompson, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Susie Jackson, and Tywanza Sanders.(Provided)

The Mother Emanuel Memorial Foundation Board announced Wednesday a $2 million donation from the city of Charleston. That money will help fund the memorial’s construction and the foundation’s social justice programs and initiatives.

A release from the foundation describes the design of the memorial, which will be installed on the grounds of the church and include a courtyard with two fellowship benches.

“At the center of the courtyard, the curves of the benches encircle a marble fountain where the names of the Emanuel Nine are carved around the fountain’s edge,” the release states. “Water emanates from a cross-shaped source, filling the basin and gently spilling over the names of the nine. The opening between the benches toward the back of the courtyard reveals a cross above a simple altar, providing visitors a quiet place to linger in thought and prayer.”

“When complete, this project will stand not only as a memorial to the victims of this horrific tragedy but as a daily call to action for all our citizens,” Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said. “It will inspire us, just as the victims’ families and survivors have for the past six years, to continue moving forward together to make Charleston a more just and equitable place for all.”

The memorial will honor the nine victims as well as five survivors of the shooting. A survivor’s garden will be surrounded by six stone benches and five trees. The sixth signifies that the church itself is also a survivor of the tragedy, the release states.

“Ever since June 17, 2015, the City of Charleston has stood by the families of the Emanuel Nine, the Survivors, and the members of Mother Emanuel AME Church,” Mother Emanuel AME’s pastor and memorial foundation co-chair, the Rev. Eric Manning said. “We are truly thankful for their support for the last six years and are humbled by their contribution to the Mother Emanuel Memorial foundation. Their contribution will ensure that the memory of the Emanuel Nine will never be forgotten, the resilience and strength of the Survivors will continue to be celebrated, and the messages of forgiveness, love and grace will draw all people together.”

Groundbreaking on the memorial is expected in the fall and organizers expect it to open in mid to late 2022.

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