Columbia faith leaders reflect on Mother Emanuel shooting four years later

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) — Several leaders of AME churches across the Midlands say while it’s hard to not think about how nine people lost their lives during a mass shooting at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston four years ago, they don’t say worship in fear due to their tight-knit church communities.

When he looks back on what took place in Charleston on June 17, 2015, Pastor Carey Grady says the tragedy put things in perspective.

“It was a very sad moment. The thought that somebody could walk into a community of faith while innocently reading and studying the word of God, makes me think on a social level, that as much as things have changed, we have so much more progress to make,” Rev. Grady, who is the Pastor of the Reid Chapel AME Church in Columbia, said,

As a pastor, Rev. rady often came across Reverend Clementa Pinckney, one of the nine people who lost their lives that evening at Mother Emanuel Church.

Rt. Rev. Samuel L. Green Sr., the Bishop of the Seventh Episcopal District of the AME Church, said feelings of sadness and fear shook up a tight-knit faith community.

“We don’t take anything for granted. There have been churches since I’ve been here who have gotten emails and threats about the possibility of doing similar things that happened in Mother Emanuel,” Bishop Green said.

Pastor Grady says his church hasn’t experienced direct threats under his watch but they have had to be more cautious.

“We have had instances where persons have been alarmed when seeing visitors, and I think that’s just natural for anyone having watched from a distance what happened in Charleston,” Rev. Grady said.

Even though church leaders still think about what happened that June day, people in the community say learning from how faith and forgiveness emerged from the ashes is important to help them move forward.

“Rather than focusing on the unfortunate end to their lives, the idea is that they lived lives of meaning,” said Ernest McNealey, the President of Allen University in Columbia.

Some say they can learn from how people in Charleston handled themselves after the tragedy.

“The persons who were part of the families responded in the best way possible with love and forgiveness, which is something I think the world needs right now,” Rev. Grady said.

Allen University is planning on putting up a memorial honoring the nine victims of the Mother Emanuel shooting in the former Waverly Hospital as part of their Institute of Civility.

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