Christians are uniting in prayer and benevolence across racial distinctions in Charleston, S.C., after a 21-year-old man massacred nine Christians in a June 17 prayer service at historic Emanuel AME Church, said neighboring Southern Baptist pastor Keith Biggs.
“Everyone together — white, black, Hispanic, everybody — we’re coming together in unity to see this not only [as] an attack on people, but an attack on the body of Christ,” said Biggs, associate pastor of Citadel Square Baptist Church, which neighbors the site of the crime. “I mean, who can walk into a church and sit for an hour and have prayer, and then just begin to kill everybody?”
The FBI identified the shooter as 21-year-old Dylann Roof of Columbia, S.C., whose uncle told police he believes Roof received a .45-caliber handgun as a birthday present, Reuters reported. Roof was arrested late Thursday morning in Shelby, N.C.
In what police are calling a hate crime, a man identified as Roof sat calmly in the church during the prayer service and without notice shot worshippers and fled the scene. The church’s pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, was among those killed, but the names of other victims — six women and two men — had not been released. A 5-year-old child escaped murder by pretending to be dead, and a woman was purposely allowed to live so that she could tell police what had happened, it was widely reported.
“As everybody said on TV, it goes deeper than just hate. To me, this is something that’s very demonic to be able to do that. It’s a big spiritual warfare, so we’re coming together,” Biggs said. “We’ve just got to pray and seek direction, see how we can help one another, see how we can pray to get this action and so forth out of here. Everybody is very calm right now and just looking for answers.”
Biggs said the two churches have a growing friendship and that the Baptist church loaned Emanuel AME the use of its parking lot during a funeral a few weeks ago, as the churches are in the same block.
“The parking in Charleston is just very hard for everybody. They knew they had a lot of people coming in. Right after that happened, Bro. Pinckney had written us a card, just of his appreciation and so forth. So we had a connection where we worked together as a church in the resources that we had,” Biggs said. “We’re down here today, everything is shut down because of all of the security, but we have already contacted one of their members, Charles Williams, who’s a friend of mine … who happened not to be at the meeting, but was out of town on vacation. And we let him know … that our church is available for anything that they need at any time.”
While Citadel Square Baptist Church pastor David Walker was in Columbus, Ohio, attending the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, Biggs said he and other church leaders have already planned a special prayer emphasis June 22 during the Sunday worship service.
“Sunday we will make sure that our membership will come together and pray [during] a portion of our service,” Biggs said, “and then again we will sit down as a church and put our heads together to see what we can do to extend even more in the days, weeks and months to come.”
Click here for more.
SOURCE: Baptist Press