Prayer service to honor all victims of gun violence

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St. Stephen AME will observe the one-year anniversary of a shooting at another historic AME church, Mother Emanuel, during a community service this Sunday. Courtesy photo.
St. Stephen AME will observe the one-year anniversary of a shooting at another historic AME church, Mother Emanuel, during a community service this Sunday. Courtesy photo.

A brutal shooting at a Charleston, South Carolina church last June made headlines across the country and spurred conversations about race.

It also made a lasting impact on a local congregation.

One year after the attack on members on Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, Wilmington’s St. Stephen AME will hold an observance aimed at drawing attention to gun violence across the country and right here at home.

According to a release from the church, the ecumenical prayer service, set for 3 p.m. Sunday, June 19 at St. Stephen, 501 Red Cross St., will allow those who gather to “pause on the first anniversary of that horrific event,” one that left nine dead after 21-year-old Dylann Roof opened fire on a prayer service. National news media reports indicated Roof, who was arrested the day after the June 15 murders, had hoped to incite a race war.

St. Stephen Pastor Wayne Johnson said the event grew from the deep connection his congregation feels to the one at Emanuel, known more familiarly as “Mother Emanuel” because it is the oldest AME church in the south.

“There are important historical ties between the St. Stephen and ‘Mother Emanuel’ AME churches, as both are considered the mother churches of the AME communities in their respective states,” Johnson said.

Built in 1865, St. Stephen is believed to be the first AME church in North Carolina.

While the service will honor and reflect on those killed at Mother Emanuel, it will extend that commemoration to those killed and injured in shootings in and around the Port City.

It’s open to people of all faiths and convictions and will include Wilmington clergy and lay presenters from various faiths traditions.

For more information, visit St. Stephen’s Facebook page.

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