CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – On June 17, 2015, 12 people were gathered at Mother Emanuel AME church for bible study when they welcomed a stranger to worship with them. Only three of the twelve church members left that night, after the stranger opened fire and killed nine people.
As the Lowcountry and the nation continue grieving the senseless act of violence seven years later, leaders held the first national bible study to commemorate the lives of those lost.
Faith groups from across the country came together and read through Mark 4:1-20, the scripture worshippers were studying the night of the shooting. Leaders are hoping to inspire change and peace in a country still plagued by gun violence.
“Preach from that parable that was first delivered in this place that brought death and murder. But it has the capacity that if God is still speaking through it, to bring new life to this nation,” says Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, with the Riverside Church of New York City.
“If we work hard we can come together and we can really begin to transform all of our communities,” says Rev. Eric Manning, the Senior Pastor of Mother Emanuel AME Church.
United States Senator Tim Scott and United States Representative Jim Clyburn put aside partisanship, echoing the call to come together.
“What soil are you or what soil am I? My question is what part of the journey are we on,” says Scott.
“Let’s have one national anthem and let’s join together and have one national hymn,” says Clyburn.
Family members of the victims say the grief will last forever, but reading through the scripture is helping them heal and they are hoping for a better tomorrow.
“There is some growth that comes from this. There is something that will come. Trauma itself doesn’t have to be a demoralizing thing. That’s the story. Test His will, but the will is there,” says Brandon Risher, the Grandson of Ethel Lee Lance.