Heartland AME church members react to Charleston, S.C. shooting

Heartland AME church members react to Charleston shooting
Members of Saint James AME church in Cape Girardeau say their hearts and prayers go out to their brothers and sisters in Charleston, SC.
Members of Saint James AME church in Cape Girardeau say their hearts and prayers go out to their brothers and sisters in Charleston, SC.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - The tragic shooting at the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, SC church hits close to home for one Cape Girardeau congregation.

Members of Saint James AME Church say their hearts and prayers go out to their brothers and sisters in Charleston. They say through the pain, they're promoting peace with peace and turning to God for strength to move forward.

"I feel as though this could have happened to us here last night, Assistant Pastor Reverend Howard McGee, Jr. said. "It can happen in your church, it could happen anywhere."

As members met for Bible study Wednesday night, a tragedy unfolded on their fellow Christians hundreds of miles away.

"No one in their wildest dreams would feel that someone would come in a church and target nine innocent people because of the color of their skin," Debra Mitchell-Braxton said. "They're worshiping God, not doing anything wrong."

Though distance separates the church families, connections through the AME denomination unites them.

"Prayers are going out not only for the pastor but the entire congregation,” Geneva Allen-Patterson said.

It's not only the AME church this tragedy impacts.

"No one deserves to be killed. It's part of our 10 commandments,” Mitchell-Braxton said.

These church members say, though the wound is still fresh, it's time to start healing.

"It just shows us how far we still have to go. But there's only one way to do it and that's with love. You can take every gun off the street but still if there's no love, nothing is going to happen,” McGee said.

They say that healing takes forgiveness, faith to press on, and strength to never give up.

"I believe it will make all our churches stronger,” McGee said.

"We aren't going to close our doors. We are not afraid,” Dr. Margaret A Holladay said. "We know that we have the Lord on our side."

The pastor of St. James says they plan to host an open dialogue about this issue for the entire community.

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