The day after a deadly shooting at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, the people of the city came together to worship and pray.
Faith leaders and community members crowded into four South Carolina AME churches on Thursday, in the cities of Charleston, Sumter, Columbia and Greenville.
They came to mourn the nine people who were shot and killed Wednesday night while attending a Bible study meeting at Emanuel, a historic black church. The suspected shooter, a 21-year-old white man named Dylann Roof, was captured by police on Thursday.
Bishop John R. Bryant, who currently serves as the leader of the global AME church, called on the country to join the denomination in prayer.
“An act like this is an attack on all that we as a nation are supposed to stand for,” Bryant told The Huffington Post on Thursday. “So we’re asking that the whole church and the community of justice and peace would join us in prayer for the families and for the city of Charleston.”
The pews were filled at Charleston's Morris Brown African Methodist Episcopal Church, a sister church to Emanuel. Outside, the voices of hundreds of supporters joined together in old Christian hymns that have for decades had resonance for black churches in America: “Amazing Grace,” “We Shall Overcome” and “This Little Light Of Mine.”
Elder James Johnson, president of Charleston’s chapter of the National Action Network, told HuffPost before the event that he planned to attend the Morris Brown service. Recalling Emanuel’s status as one of the largest and oldest black congregations in the South, Johnson said it will be hard for Charleston to overcome Wednesday's tragedy.
“That church is an icon in the community. It’s very sad,” he said. “It will never be the same again... We have to put together a plan of healing.”
In particular, Bryant asked for supporters to begin with themselves -- to ask how individuals can work to be more loving and peaceful.
“As we pray for peace in our country, [let us pray] that it would begin with us, and then spread out to my community, my city, my state, my country,” he said Thursday.
Across the nation, faith leaders took up the call by organizing vigils of their own.
Here are just some of the vigils scheduled for this week. Let us know in the comments if you'll be attending one in your own community.
Titusville: St. James AME Church, Thursday at 7 p.m.
Topeka: St. John AME Church, Friday at 6 p.m.
Boston: Dinner Church, Thursday at 8:30 p.m.
Shelby: The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, Thursday at 7 p.m.
Fort Worth: First Jefferson Unitarian Universalist, Thursday at 7 p.m.
Foundry United Methodist Church, Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.