I wrote this for our church blog last week after hearing the news about the shootings at Emmanuel AME.
I’m not one that says much, in that way, I’m a lot like my Dad.
But this week’s slayings at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina left me without words. A young man was welcomed to take part in a Bible Study. The attendees sat with him for an hour as people discussed scripture and prayed. Then, as the meeting ended and the people prepared to go home, the young man took out a gun and did the unspeakable.
A wolf disguised in sheep’s clothing entered the fold. Nine of God’s children were gunned down.
There is a lot to talk about in light of this week’s events. We can and will talk about the perniciousness of racism. What did this man learn that told him that a group of people were seen as problem to be “solved” rather than a people to be loved?
But while we deal with the shock and anger of such an act, it is important to remember something- something that has been forgotten in all of the news coverage. The name of this historic church says it all: Emmanuel, God with Us.
It might seem that God was absent as the shots were fired, but God was there. God wept over the nine people who died. God was also with the a white woman outside of Charlotte, NC who spotted the suspects car and was able to aid police in his capture. God was present a the memorial service in the Presbyterian Church down the street where people of every race and hue came together as a community to mourn. God was there when three women, two African America and one white who were strangers, came together in front of the church to pray.
The fact is, that even in the wake of such horror, at a time when it would not be out of place to wonder where God is, we are reminded in the name of a church that God has not abandoned us, evil will not win. It will never win.
None of this means we won’t ever faith heartache or even worse. But in life and in death, we are never alone.
I am reminded of the hymn “Stay With Us,” written by the late Lutheran Herb Brokering. It’s been years, but I can remember that last time I sang it; sitting in a church in St. Paul on the even of September 11, 2001. It is a hymn of comfort during a trying time. I can’t find the lyrics, but I can remember it being truly what was needed in a time of confusion, sadness and anger.
God still Stays with Us. God is with us. Even if we lose our lives, God is always with us. Evil will not win. Hate will not have the day.
God is With Us. God is With Us. God is With Us.
-Dennis Sanders, Acting Pastor
The above photo is a composite photo of the nine shooting victims, including Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Cynthia Hurd, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Susie Jackson, Rev. Daniel Simmons and DePayne Middleton-Doctor.