Rev. Eric Manning of Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church to tell story of tragedy, healing after 2015 shooting that ended nine lives


The mass shooting that took nine lives in the sanctuary of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015 sent shockwaves across the country. As Americans wrestled with the senselessness of the violence and the divides it demonstrated, leaders like Dr. Ken Moore and Dr. Kenneth Hill resolved to proactively bring people together. The result was the Unite Williamson Prayer Breakfast, an inter-faith event last fall that invited citizens from all faiths, creeds and nationalities to join in common understanding.

The second-annual Unite Williamson event is set for 9 a.m. on Saturday, October 19 at the Eastern Flank Battlefield Park in Franklin, and will feature Rev. Eric Sheldon Charles Manning, who was assigned as senior pastor to the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2016, responsible for leading the congregation on a long journey of healing and recovery. Dr. Hill, of the Shorter Chapel AME Church in Franklin, has known Manning for many years through their work with the national denomination that was founded in 1816 in Philadelphia as the result of segregated worship, and flourished in the years following the Civil War. Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church is the African Methodist Episcopal denomination’s mother church of the South – there are more than 7,000 congregations and 2.5 million members today worldwide. But the event is about reaching beyond Christianity to bring all faiths together.

“We held a prayer vigil shortly after the Charleston shooting and Dr. Moore came to be with us. We were all grappling with the tragedy and what we could do to prevent this from happening in our community, and to be prepared if something terrible did occur here,” Hill said. “He is our mayor, but more importantly, he is a citizen who believed there was great value in getting together with our brothers and sisters of all faiths – Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians of all stripes and those who are still seeking – to find the common ground we believed existed. That culminated in a beautiful event last year, unlike anything we’ve seen before, and gave us the inspiration to make it even larger this fall.”

Dr. Moore remembers the response of a diverse faith-based community after the Charleston tragedy.

“In the wake of that horrific event, people of all faiths came to the support of the church and the surrounding community,” recalled Moore. “Through Unite Williamson, we hope to strengthen our community by creating a formal connection through prayer and commitment to bring hope and unity in a time of great need, should it arise.”

“I believe that across all faiths there is a shared compassion that calls us to give of ourselves for the good of others,” Moore said. “Our hope is that those who attend this event will take the hope, excitement and commitment to serve our county back to their places of worship and surrounding communities.”

The second-annual event, themed “Rooted in Love,” aims to attract individuals and families to attend, meet neighbors from other backgrounds, and gain insights from shared perspectives and unified prayer for healing of the divides we face as a community and nation. Tickets are $5, and participants are encouraged to reserve seats now, as space is limited.

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