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Sacramento AME churches plan vigil for Charleston shooting victims

People came to Emanuel AME Church in Charleston Thursday evening to pay their respects at the site where nine members of the congregation were killed by a gunman Wednesday night.
People came to Emanuel AME Church in Charleston Thursday evening to pay their respects at the site where nine members of the congregation were killed by a gunman Wednesday night. tdominick@thestate.com

Sacramento’s three AME churches – shaken by the fatal shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. – are holding a prayer vigil for the victims and their families at 6 p.m. Friday at Murph-Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 4151 Don Julio Blvd. in North Highlands.

A vigil also is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday at Pentecost Fellowship Ministries, 6489 47th St. in Sacramento.

“We have them in our prayers – we grieve together and rejoice together,” said the Rev. Tyrone Hicks, pastor of St. Andrews AME Church – the oldest west of the Mississippi. “In the 21st century, things are supposed to be better, but they seem to be taking a turn for the worse. A place of refuge, a house of the Lord has been turned into a killing field.”

At AME churches, “everyone is welcome, no matter what they look like, and for a person to come to a place of peace and comfort and sit there, hear people praying and then to unleash this crime against them is heartbreaking.”

Dylann Roof, 21, was arrested Thursday in connection with the shootings, which authorities are calling a hate crime. The victims included the church’s senior pastor, Clementa Pinckney, who also was a state senator. Those killed were 26 to 87 years old.

The AME Zion Church and Christian Methodist Episcopal Church also plan to attend the vigil. St. Andrews, established June 10, 1850, quickly became the center of African American political and social activity in Northern California, fighting to abolish segregated schools. NAACP co-founder W.E.B. Du Bois spoke there in 1925.

Sacramento NAACP President Stephen T. Webb has joined Hicks in calling for swift justice and unflagging prayer. Webb said the massacre harkens back to the bomb that killed four little black girls during morning services in Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963.

“They too went to church thinking it’s a safe place,” Webb said. “All we can do is pray for the victims and their families, and that justice will be served swiftly on this individual.”

Local Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Sikh leaders have expressed their condolences and outrage over the crime.

Stephen Magagnini: (916) 321-1072, @StephenMagagnini

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