“Mother Emanuel means so much,” Fordham said, using the church’s nickname based on its founding role in the state’s AME movement. “This is not only a wound to the physical flesh of the individuals, but it’s a wound to the psyche of African-Americans in Charleston.”
Fordham grew up in and still attends Friendship AME Church in Mt. Pleasant, where another of the shooting victims, the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., served as pastor in the 1990s. Fordham described Simmons as having been “a pretty no-nonsense, rather stern individual.”
Fordham also got to know Pinckney when the two co-hosted a radio program on local black radio station WPAL, and Fordham said he was surprised with Pinckney’s entry into state politics in his early 20s.
“I was very impressed with him, being 10 years his senior, at his command of the facts as well as his command of the language,” Fordham said. “But not only was he good on those counts, but he was also very friendly and personable.”
When the church bells ring for Sunday services, some churchgoers will be ill at ease, even with a suspect behind bars. Jerod Frazier, minister of social justice at the predominately black Charity Missionary Baptist in North Charleston, said his church will likely have a lookout posted at the door to ensure the safety of the congregation.
“We consider that to be a sacred time, and this threatens that peace,” Frazier said. “If someone black goes into a white church someone white goes to a traditionally black church, heads are going to turn around and say, ‘What’s going on now?’ It’s kind of a broken peace, if you will, a disturbance of peace.”
Elsewhere, churches are banding together in different ways. Prayer vigils were organized throughout the day and night in neighboring communities. Wendy Hudson Jacoby, pastor at North Charleston United Methodist Church, said her church will send a small delegation to nearby St. Peter’s AME Church on Sunday morning “to worship with them in solidarity.”
The city is in the process of organizing a prayer vigil Friday night in the College of Charleston’s basketball arena. A Mother Emanuel Hope Fund has been set up, starting with a $5,000 donation from the city.
And for the people who know and love the congregation at Emanuel AME, Rev. Pinckney’s words at an April 26 event called the “Requiem on Racism” are echoing with haunting overtones:
“We know that only love can conquer hate, that only love can bring all together in our name. Irregardless of our faiths, our ethnicities, where we are from, together we come in love. Together we come to bury racism, to bury bigotry and to resurrect and revive love, compassion and tenderness.”