Across the Street from Grace

             I was on vacation in Charleston, South Carolina last week. My son Sam and I and a friend of his were staying in the lovely home of a friend. The Spoleto Festival, the annual arts and music festival held in the city was winding down to its last days. Sam and his friend were interested in attending a concert. It was a beautiful day and so I decided to walk the mile down Meeting Street to get to box office. I needed to make a right-hand turn on Calhoun Street and walk a quarter of a block. I did and as I made my turn, there rose before me the Emmanuel African American Episcopal Church—Mother Emmanuel. 

            All week I had been looking for the church. It will be one year this week since a twisted and depraved young terrorist walked into the church to attend their weekly Bible Study. Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who had just come from his duties as a state representative, shook the hand of this stranger who had placed an automatic weapon in his backpack. Rev. Pinckney and the rest of the members of the church welcomed him warmly as Christ commanded. He was the only white person in the circle of chairs that night. So great was the love and respect he found in that room that he almost decided not to carry out his horrible plans. But he went ahead.

            The website for the Mother Emmanuel Church has a page called Acts of Amazing Grace. http://www.emanuelamechurch.org/acts-of-grace/index.html If you visit the site, and I encourage you to do so, you will find the following:

 

On June 17, 2015, a tragic event that lasted only 90 seconds immediately affected lives around the world and initiated a groundswell of support worldwide.

At Mother Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, SC, nine precious and amazing persons lost their lives at a bible study in the place where they worshipped ... and felt safe. Along with the lives of families and friends, a church, a city, a state, the country and the entire world would change forever.

This tragedy resonated around the world when days later the families of those who lost their lives demonstrated extreme kindness when they decided to love and not hate. Their actions and words reflected their deep seated faith in God's grace and mercy. The same peaceful response was demonstrated by the church.

In the days following June 17, 2015, we continued to witness the grace with which the families and church pressed on through funeral services for those lost. The church received with grace the hundreds of visitors and outpourings of sympathy from around the world. That first service immediately after the incident we were reminded that 'weeping endureth for a night but joy cometh in the morning.'

As the world continued to mourn, the families and the church made preparations for the funeral services for the deceased. The world watched along with us as President Obama eulogized Reverend Clementa Pinckney. His poignant message of hope and encouragement included the singing of an old familiar hymn of the church, Amazing Grace. With each passing day we all wonder at how we can continue to make it through this senseless act and we know that it is only God's grace that has and will sustain us.

           Three days after I stood across the street from that historic church news of another horrific shooting broke, for me and for many, we heard of the Orlando shootings in our morning worship services. What do we do? The amazing Christians at Mother Emmanuel suggest following: The incident has left many persons searching for a personal way to respond and counteract the hate and negativity that was the basis for the act. As a way to collectively respond to the impact that June 17 has affected across the world, we issue this call to action — June 21 is designated ACTS OF AMAZING GRACE DAY. On this date, everyone is encouraged to perform their own personal Act of Amazing Grace. With thousands of acts of grace being performed around the world, we will surely make the world a better place. No act of kindness or grace, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

            This moved me last week when I stood across the street last week and looked at the church: They still offer their Wednesday Night Bible Study.