“The elders of the daughter of Zion
sit on the ground in silence;
they have thrown dust on their heads
and put on sackcloth;
the young women of Jerusalem
have bowed their heads to the ground.” – Lam. 2:10
There aren’t many words to be written this morning, after a year of eye-opening racial violence, and on a morning in which our brothers and sisters in the African Methodist Episcopal church have been slaughtered in the name of race. We are witnesses to domestic terrorism perpetrated by a white shooter on African-Americans who had gathered for a bible study.
Last night, more people were murdered in a church than were killed in the Boston Marathon bombings.
If you want a bit of background and history about Emanuel and the Lutheran/AME history, please read below.
If you feel moved by God to do so, I would encourage you to give to Emanuel for their work, response, and for the costs of funerals and ministering to their community in grief. Use the donate button on the right side of their website.
If nothing else, let us pray:
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Come Holy Spirit, speak our prayers when we have no words. Help us yearn for peace where there is none. Empower us to speak truthfully, to confess our systemic sin, and listen well to our brothers and sisters crying out in grief.
Mother Emanuel AME Church is one of the most historically significant churches in the African-American tradition, and has been a long beacon of God’s freedom for the enslaved over centuries.
Like most African Methodist Episcopal churches, it began as a home for those who had been excluded from Christian fellowship because of race, becoming the biggest and oldest black church in the South. It has also been long a site of racial violence. Denmark Vesey, one of it’s founders, was hanged along with 34 others for conspiring in a slave revolt, and the church was burned down. From their website:
“In 1822 the church was investigated for its involvement with a planned slave revolt. Denmark Vesey, one of the church's founders, organized a major slave uprising in Charleston. Vesey was raised in slavery in the Virgin Islands among newly imported Africans. He was the personal servant of slavetrader Captain Joseph Vesey, who settled in Charleston in 1783. Beginning in December 1821, Vesey began to organize a slave rebellion, but authorities were informed of the plot before it could take place. The plot created mass hysteria throughout the Carolinas and the South. Brown, suspected but never convicted of knowledge of the plot, went north to Philadelphia where he eventually became the second bishop of the AME denomination.During the Vesey controversy, the AME church was burned. Worship services continued after the church was rebuilt until 1834 when all black churches were outlawed. The congregation continued the tradition of the African church by worshipping underground until 1865 when it was formally reorganized, and the name Emanuel was adopted, meaning "God with us."
One of the founding members of the AME, Daniel Payne, went on to become one of the most famous abolitionists, a bishop of the AME, and the founder of Wilberforce College, was trained at the Lutheran Seminary at Gettysburg, but was unable to find work in the Lutheran church, and returned to serve the AME church. Our seminaries regularly train AME pastors, yet our own churches remain nearly 95% white.
Emanuel’s current pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was among those murdered last night. Rev. Pinckney was trained as a teenager for ministry, but completed his seminary education at the Lutheran Theological Summer Seminary, earning a Master of Divinity.
As Lutherans, our connection to Emanuel, and the larger AME church is important to remember today. It is important to remember both in solidarity with our African-American brothers and sisters, and as a reminder of our own complicity in the long and lasting racism in the United States. So listen, pray, give, participate, and let these martyrs of our faith be remembered justly.