'It's about grace': Charleston's churches ring bells in unity - Macleans.ca

‘It’s about grace’: Charleston’s churches ring bells in unity

Churches of all denominations across Charleston rang their bells at 10 a.m. to send healing message in wake of tragedy

A person holds a bell at Marion Square as churches across the city rang their bells in a show of solidarity with Emanuel A.M.E. Church, Sunday, June 21, 2015, in Charleston, S.C., four days after a mass shooting at Emanuel claimed the lives of its pastor and eight others. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

A person holds a bell at Marion Square as churches across the city rang their bells in a show of solidarity with Emanuel A.M.E. Church, Sunday, June 21, 2015, in Charleston, S.C., four days after a mass shooting at Emanuel claimed the lives of its pastor and eight others. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

CHARLESTON, S.C. — For several minutes Sunday, the sweltering skies above this grieving city were alive with the sound of bells: high in steeples and in the hands of toddlers, all ringing and tinkling in unison to honour the nine people cut down during a Bible study at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Churches of all denominations across Charleston agreed to ring their bells at 10 a.m. in a gesture they hoped would send a healing message of unity and love to the world.

Standing in the shadow of St. Matthew’s Lutheran, less than a block from “Mother Emanuel,” Kelly Nix said the event brought her immense comfort.

“It’s about grace, hearing the bells and being part of a community that we love,” she said, tears rolling down her cheeks as her twin girls, Lana and Margeaux, who will turn 2 on Friday, ran around in their matching white dresses. “And searching for grace and faith in a time when you think of unthinkable things.”

Police say a white man named Dylann Storm Roof, 21, sat with the Bible study group for an hour Wednesday before pulling out a handgun and opening fire. Pastor Clementa Pinckney and eight others, ranging in age from 26 to 87, were killed.

Authorities have called the shooting a hate crime and are investigating whether a racist screed posted on the Internet was written by the suspect. But if Roof intended to strike a blow for segregation, Sunday’s event was meant as a message that he failed.

Less than a block from Emanuel, several hundred people gathered in Marion Square Park, which is dominated by a statue of pro-slavery U.S. Rep. John C. Calhoun and flanked by the spires of St. Matthew’s Lutheran and Citadel Square Baptist Church.

Under a blazing sun, the throng held an interdenominational service, sitting on blankets and folding chairs beneath umbrellas and tents. Some wore T-shirts bearing the faces of those who were slain at the church.

Behind the stage, hanging from the battlements of a castle-like hotel, hung a white banner with the words “Mother Emanuel, We Love You.”

Shortly before 10 a.m., Pastor Mike Seaver of Sovereign Grace Church in nearby Summerville read a passage from the book of Psalms. When he had finished, Seaver asked the throng to come closer together and urged them to “honour the Lord and weep with those who weep.”

Quincy Williams bent down and whispered to her 3-year-old sister, Michal, who was holding a purple plastic tambourine to match her purple dress.

“Are you going to shake it really loud?” the big sister asked. The shiny cymbals tinkled in response.

“Good job,” Williams cooed.

Quincy Williams is white. Her sister is black. She said their presence was a reminder that “God doesn’t see colour.”

“We’re all his under the sun,” Williams said as Michal shook her tambourine. “He created us individually, to be different. But those differences make us who we are.”

Across town at First Baptist, the Rev. R. Marshall Blalock read the names of the dead as their photos appeared on a large screen. He then told the story of a congregant whose young son was taunted by some whites at a fast food restaurant the day after the killings.

“The white community needs to build a bridge to the black community,” he said.

Blalock said Emanuel family members who offered their forgiveness to Roof in court on Friday sent the right message to him and to the world.

“He wanted division and hatred,” the pastor said. “But he went to the wrong place.”

People stapled notes to a wooden cross with the words “First Baptist Stands With Mother Emanuel.”

On the sidewalk outside St. John’s Lutheran, a crowd of about 40 parishioners and bystanders listened as the church’s 18-bell carillon _ which replaced a bell melted down for gun metal during the Civil War _ played a celebration peal in the steeple above.

Down below, Todd Monsell, music director of the 270-year-old congregation, led a hastily assembled hand bell choir of seven adults and seven children.

He told the group of amateurs to simply “make a joyful noise.” Across the street, Adam and Jill Fetsch clutched their twin 3-year-old twin daughters, Zoey and Ella, as the girls waved red and silver Christmas jingle bells.

“I wanted them to just create a memory and then later explain to them that something so amazing came from something so tragic,” the mother said. “They’re too young to understand this.”

Back at Marion Square, organizers waited to start the interdenominational service for nine minutes _ one for each of the victims. With the bells still tolling, Pastor Brandon Bowers of Awaken Church told the crowd that they were all one congregation this day, and that they were “gathered here to make a statement that what the enemy intended for evil, God is using for good.”

Sitting on a Snoopy blanket with his wife, Kristin, and their five young daughters, Seaver said the bells were a sobering reminder that there were nine families “that don’t have their moms and grandmas and dads today.”

Inside Emanuel, filled to overflowing, the bells were drowned out by the loudspeakers in front of the church projecting the singing and preaching from inside the sanctuary.

But for many people, it didn’t matter.

Felicia Breeland, 81, whose family has been attending Emanuel for four generations, said she was happy to see people “getting together, instead of dividing. God made all of us, right?”

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‘It’s about grace’: Charleston’s churches ring bells in unity

  1. Too many christians, not enough lions.

    • And Emily declares herself a fan of Dylann Storm Roof. Your bigotry against Christianity wins out over your hatred of racism. How sad.

      • LOL Dylan is a Xtian…attends church every week.

        And slavery is encouraged, condoned and regulated by God. Says so right in that book you claim to believe in.

        • The reports on his level of faith vary. But what has that to do with his actions? They weren’t the actions of someone of faith – or at least, not the behaviour of someone whose beliefs are mainstream. Saying he did this because he’s Christian is like saying your idiocy is due to your sex. No causal relationship.

          In fact, a good many in the US who don’t want to admit to the race problem are calling this an attack on Christianity.

          Which, of course, is exactly what your first statement was. A statement of hatred toward Christians in the comments section of an article on Christians coming together and displaying the best side of their beliefs.

          As for approval of slavery: Find it in any of the four Gospels. Christianity is primarily based on the life and teachings of Christ – not on obscure passages in the Old Testament.

          Are there people who call themselves Christian who justify bad behaviour by cherry-picking quotes out of context? Of course there are. It’s typical, human behaviour to try to justify bad acts; religion is just one of the things they use as justification. If they didn’t have biblical quotes they’d find something else. That’s not a failure of the religion; that’s a failure of the individual.

          Just like the absurd things you say here have nothing to do with your gender or your atheism; it’s just you being Emily.

          • Yes, he’s Xtian…. even went to catechism class

            Had his name been Mohammed instead of Dylan everybody would have been in a flap by now about Muslims and terrorists.

            Well Dylan was a domestic terrorist…and they are just as dangerous when they’re Xtian. Like Timothy McVeigh and the Unabomber and the killer of Dr Tiller…again in a church…and others

            You have no problem seeing other terrorists….but when it comes to one of your own….you’re blind. It couldn’t possibly be because of religion….goodness no.

            But it is I’m afraid….and it doesn’t matter the name of it

            It’s all a blind bronze age belief in a deity….and it’s killed millions of people.

            Slavery….especially black slavery….comes from the bible. That book he…and you….believe in. It’s sexist, racist, homophobic….and violent.

            Many of you on here are like the fish surrounded by water….you don’t know it’s there.

            Of course he attacked them because they were Xtians….. black ones defiling the faith.

            He decided Jews were white….but he wanted them painted blue to distinguish them from people like himself.

            Religious lunacy….but you’ll excuse it like you do everything else.

          • Another anti-Christian rant on your part. You have a problem.

            Not denying this is terrorism; it’s just that you are deliberately trying to put the blame on religion when the issue is racial. Timothy McVeigh’s attack wasn’t religiously motivated either – but as usual you again deliberately misclassify it as such, because it suits your agenda.

            But then, attacking Christianity has long been a pet cause of yours.

            Slavery is present in the Bible. It doesn’t “come from” the Bible. Another deliberately false assertion.

            Back to that first post of yours: How is it qualitatively different from saying “The only good __________ is a dead __________”? It is borderline hate speech, Em. Not really that different from the things you say Dylann has been saying.

            Now that C-51 is law, if I were you I’d be worried about CSIS targeting you.

          • Ahh I can’t have an opinion or belief because I’m female. More sexism from the bible.

            Racism is also from the bible. Charming book.

            The solution is to leave the bible behind like the old book of myths it is.

            You worry about a lot of things….because of your religious lunacy. I do not.

          • Slavery, sexism, racism… all exist independent of the bible. Examples are found from before the bible existed; they are found in cultures never exposed to the bible. Trying to blame the bible or religion generally for this is absurd; it’s the human condition. You actually make the case for me; an avowed atheist consumed with hatred for others not like yourself.

            “Ahh I can’t have an opinion or belief because I’m female.” If that was explicitly aimed at me, please demonstrate where I have said either that you can’t have an opinion, or any evidence that my views on your opinion have anything to do with your gender.

            I’m quite happy to let you express your opinions. I’m equally happy to mock them when they are ludicrous (as here). My C-51 reference was just to remind you Harper may not be as willing to let you voice those opinions. (I take shots at C-51 wherever the opportunity presents itself ;-))

            I do consider it in poor taste, though, for you to express your hatred toward Christians in a way that flippantly suggests you think we should all be killed, on an article about people expressing their faith in the face of loss.

          • The bible puts the blessing of God on sexism, racism and homophobia. Even has guidelines for slave-keeping..

            A decent religion would have pushed for removal of those things….a decent ‘god’ certainly would have.

            The bible just reinforces your hate.

            Anyone expressing faith is the face of their loss has mush for brains.

            It comes from living on hate as you do

            I thought you promised to leave?

          • “It comes from living on hate as you do”

            Uh, Em… it was you who said “Too many christians, not enough lions.” Between the two of us you are the only one expressing hate.

          • Yup, you can buy the phrase on a t-shirt, Bram

          • It’s still hate speech. You’re talking about killing people you don’t like. There are people who think “The only good n____ is a dead n_____” is funny, too – and would probably put it on a t-shirt.

            You have a problem, Em. Get help.

      • Playing Drama Queen again Bram?

        Really…and at your age too. LOL

        It’s a book title….I thot you were more au current than this

        • Sorry, should be ‘au courant’

          Plus, I’m an atheist. I think all religious people are crazy. Not to mention violent and full of hate.

          And I have the right to say so. Get over it.

      • Keith, don’t ague with an unhinged psycho. Anyone who would jump into an article about a church massacre to denounce the people attending the church (including the victims presumably) and suggest more of them should be killed is obviously a sociopath completely void of humanity. You just wasted how much time at the keyboard trying to convince a crazy person to stop being mentally ill?

        The human concience is something that must develop by the age of six, or it does not develop at all. If a child does not have at least a foundation of empathy by that age, they never will. Whether it is upbringing or genetics that causes the failure of that development is open to debate. What is not open to debate is that sociopathy is firmly established when the child is young. That means the Dylan’s and the Emily’s of the world are years and decades removed from any potentially helpful intervention. Nothing you can say will talk any sense into either of them.

        Emily hasn’t even figured out yet that your criticism is about her utter lack of humanity and charity towards other humans. She thinks she is having an argument about religion. Aside from the obvious intellectual deficit, that is a classic example of extreme narcissism; it’s all about whatever she wants it to be about, reality be damned, and anyone who disagrees is “crazy”. Posting links to t-shirts in an article about a community’s response to a massacre – Is there any clearer sign of sociopathy? About the only thing you’ve accomplished is laying bare her sickness for all to see. But that was already clear from her very first post, so you needn’t have bothered.

  2. Footnote: Turns out Roof is a devout Lutheran.

    • Nothing devout about his actions on Wednesday. That stems from something other than the teachings of his faith.

      • Nope….bible is loaded with racism, sexism and slavery….even genocide

        Tha’ts where the hate comes from.

        • Sorry, Em. Lots of Christians live lives of peace and love, and doing good for others. The problem isn’t religion itself; like many other things, the problem is the way people use (or abuse) it. You won’t find racism, sexism and slavery among the things praised and exulted from a Lutheran pulpit; they may be found in parts of the bible, but they aren’t part of Christ’s teachings.

          Hate comes from within, or from the influence of those with whom one surrounds themselves. Some may root through the OT looking for quotes to justify their thoughts and behaviours. But the hate comes first; the justification later.

          Non-Christians do the same; they just look in different places. For example, you hate Christians, so you ignore any good done by Christians generally and seek out outlier extremists – even try to fit the political acts of some (see McVeigh) into the mold because at some point they attended church, even though their acts have nothing to do with religion – to hold up as examples of what Christians are like. It’s a very distorted view, but it serves your purpose. It “justifies” your hate.

          So if religion is the root of all evil, how do you explain an atheist like yourself being so full of hate and determined to bring down those of faith? How do you explain the deceitful justifications?

          Religion is not the cause, Em – though it is often used as the excuse – or the scapegoat (as you are intent on doing).

          You are misidentifying the cause. Deliberately. Because doing so suits your own twisted desires. But really, the core difference between your hate and Dylann’s is merely one of degree; you lack the courage to take your convictions as far as he did.

          As I said before – get help. Before all that hate destroys you.

          • Most intelligent people on earth, now and in history, are atheists.

            I realize you don’t want to acknowledge that…..but religion’s time is over.

            No more stakes.

          • Em, I don’t have a problem with atheists – or with any other non-Christian – as long as they simply want to live in peace and harmony.

            I do have a problem with bigots who think it’s fun to tell a bunch of people mourning the loss of nine of their own that nine isn’t anything other than a good start. Whether the phrase is the title of a book or not, the usage and meaning was pretty clear.

            You chose a time of tragedy to insult and offend. That makes you one very small, mean-spirited individual.

  3. Are you finally through with all the pious excuses?

    Because I have to tell you I don’t CARE about your problem.

    Your ‘disapproval’ means nothing to me, or anyone else.

    Keep your religion to yourself and stop trying to tell other people how to live. We already know your IQ.

    • I like the way you keep bringing up intelligence and trying to put me down with that. Well, for the record, mine (in university anyway) was 136 on the WAIS. Not quite genius level, but almost two and a half standard deviations above that of the average. So I get a kick out of people who try to insult me by implying I’m not that smart. Think you’re smarter? Put up or shut up.

      I offer no excuses. I merely point out how you conflate and exaggerate. If you have comprehension difficulties (and you have demonstrated many times in the past that you do), well – that’s your problem. You talk about science, yet you can’t handle the basic concept that theories are supposed to support the evidence; instead you try to make the evidence fit your warped little theories. I think it really bugs you when I call you on it.

      (And BTW – religion and science are not incompatible. We aren’t all fundamentalist crackpots. We also know what any good scientist will tell you; our understanding of the world around us is far from complete. I’m not afraid of science; you, on the other hand, seem quite threatened by religion. Why is that?)

      As for who is telling who how to live – again, that would be you. You regularly attack anyone of faith, belittling them because they have a different world view than you. I’ve called you out on your deliberately insulting behaviour and your petty hatred, but have in no way said you should not be an atheist. I have not insisted that your lack of faith is wrong, or mocked atheists generally. I have kept my religion to myself – except in response to your public attack on, and deliberate distortion of, it. When you do that, then you hear from me. I’m not the one on here proselytizing. (You might want to look that one up; might be above your level of comprehension.) I am merely pointing out your falsehoods.

      It’s simple, Em – you don’t want to be challenged, then don’t insult people. Don’t attack and lie about their beliefs. If you do – then I’m here to call you on your lies and distortions, and insult you right back. If you don’t like being called petty and mean-spirited – then don’t act that way.

      Looking forward to hearing your IQ score!

      • If you met someone at a reception who told you they believed in Zeus, and followed the rituals….sacrificing goats and all….you’d consider them a crackpot, possibly dangerous, and edge away from them as fast as possible.

        This is how I, and probably most other atheists, see you.

        Any adult who believes in fairy tales is not intelligent, period.

        We can tell that by what you write.

        • That’s what I thought – ducking the question. And I’m betting your EQ is also a good bit lower than mine. Poor little dumb one!

          You’ve been spouting your own mythology all through this chain, Em. Most of your comments here – and on religion generally – bear only a passing similarity to reality – akin to the view in a fun-house mirror. And you clearly prefer your twisted myths and two-dimensional caricatures over reality. So I guess we each have our own fairy tales.

          • You’ve displayed your ‘intelligence’ by your willingness to believe what anyone tells you about their IQ….online

            I’m an atheist Bram…..none of the other little diversions and tangents you keep trying to bring into this.

            It’s very simple really….no deities, no stakes, no begging…and no belief.

            Now sod off and take your knee pads with you.