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Elgin church hosts prayer vigil for Charleston

Posted: June 30, 2015 5:12 p.m.
Updated: July 1, 2015 1:00 a.m.
Tenell Felder/C-I

Elgin Mayor Melissa Emmons (center) and Kershaw County Chairman Julian Burns (second from right) participate in a community prayer vigil at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Elgin for the victims of the June 23 church shooting in Charleston. Joining them are (from left) Bishop Arizona DeVane of Elgin Church of God, Pastor Lorenzo White of Father’s House Ministries, Blaney Fire Chief Greg Beck, Pastor Jerry Lewis of Union Baptist Church and Pastor Ken Jackson of Hillcrest Baptist Church.

Sunday evening, Hillcrest Baptist Church hosted a community prayer vigil for the victims and families of the June 17 shooting during a night bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Nine African-American worshippers died in what has been reported as a hate crime.

Members from the Elgin community attended the vigil to pray for the nation, the community and state. Local government officials spoke as well as pastors from the community. The shared Christian faith of the victims and of the vigil attendees was spoken of throughout the evening as well.

Ken Jackson, Hillcrest’s pastor, introduced Elgin Mayor Melissa Emmons who opened the service.  

“I am pleased to have this opportunity tonight so that we could come together as a community to pray. On behalf of the town of Elgin I would like to welcome you to our community service in the aftermath of what has occurred in Charleston and what is going on in our state and in our country, we just felt the need to come together to pray and offer encouragement,” Emmons said.

Emmons also encouraged all to consider Jesus’ command to love.

“Regardless of what you call him, we could all agree to follow his amazingly powerful, yet so very simple challenge and that is to love our neighbor.”

Emmons also encouraged the community not to lose hope.

“It’s not going to start in Washington, it’s not going to start in Columbia, it is going to start in our hearts, in our homes, in our communities and it is going to spread. If anything these past few weeks have reaffirmed to me my belief that we serve an ever-living God, even in times of pain -- and we have seen a lot -- He still carries us to paths of joy,” Emmons said.

Next, Kershaw County Council Chairman Julian Burns addressed attendees by expressing grief for those killed in Charleston.

“Their families have taught us what our Lord has been teaching us all our lives. We are truly blessed with their example that overcame hate with kindness and malice with charity. They overcame a tragedy of cruel murder with forgiveness, awesome breath-taking forgiveness. It is right and proper that Elgin and the people of this part of our county gather together tonight to commemorate that example,” Burns said. “We the people of Kershaw County, we the people of Elgin, we the people of Charleston, we the people of South Carolina, we the believers, we the overcomers -- in the simple discourse of forgiveness and reconciliation follow the example of our Lord as expressed in our Christian beliefs.”

Following his remarks, Burns led the pledge of allegiance.

Pastor Lorenzo White of Father’s House Ministries, Pastor Jerry Lewis of Union Baptist Church and Bishop Arizona DeVane of Elgin Church of God each spoke, reminding the audience of their unity in faith regardless of race and of love for the nation and the community.

The vigil ended with a group prayer. 

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