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Emanuel Church Confronts Racial Violence

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When Barack Obama began his first term as the 44th president of the United States, he delivered a stirring inaugural address that called on this nation to join with him in addressing the problems facing the nation.

It was an address of realism and challenges, as he noted:

"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily nor in a short span of time. But know this, America -- they will be met."

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Racism was one of the major challenges our first African-American president had in mind.

Racism, in all its violent hatred, exploded in Charlestown, South Carolina during a Wednesday night Bible Study in the basement of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, June 17.

The picture above shows a gathering of men outside the church, shortly after the killings, praying together in their shock and grief.

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David Zirin describes the church which experienced that massacre and which evokes prayer as a response:

"The more you read about Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, otherwise known as 'Mother Emanuel,' the more awe you feel for its historic resilience amidst white-supremacist terror.

"This church is now known as the scene of a massacre, which is being investigated as a 'hate crime.' Nine are dead, but this institution will not fall. We know this because it has stood tall amidst the specter of racist violence for 200 years."

What happened in Charlestown after the killing of eight parishioners and the church's pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was a miracle of grace. There was no rioting in the streets, no cries for revenge.

What happened in the aftermath of a senseless slaughter, was that "Mother Emanuel" church once again stood tall and looked upward with forgiveness out of the depths of a dark and tragic event.

The church congregation, the bereaved families of the church's pastor and Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel L. Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson, all, as though in unison, set an example of how challenges are met.

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They must be met through grace, as President Barack Obama so eloquently put it in the moving eulogy he delivered at the funeral for Pastor Clementa Pinckney at an overflowing auditorium of the College of Charleston's campus on Friday afternoon, June 26. The full text of his eulogy is here.

As he stressed the significance of grace as the means by which the believer is called to address such dark events, the President paused for a few seconds and then began singing Amazing Grace, words written by John Newton, a clergyman who had once been captain of a slave ship.

The President was joined by the congregation as he sang:

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James Wall served as a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois, from 1999 through 2017. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Many sources have influenced (more...)
 

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