Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney, a South Carolina Senator and senior pastor of Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church, died June 17, 2015, in the mass shooting in Charleston.
he massacre of nine people on June 17 at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, is a tragedy of national proportions. I feel strongly that this is a time for all Americans to act in whatever way we can to address the racial hatred that lives on in our country in ways both great and small. This is the first of a series of poems honoring the victims of the Charleston shooting.
“Eulogy: For Reverend Clementa Pinckney”
God, we welcome and invite you into this place, your house.
We thank you for the spirit that dwells here, the spirit of Denmark Vesey, the spirit of R.H. Cain, the spirit of Dr. King, the spirit of many of the unsung heroes of our people.
But we also thank you, God, for all persons who come seeking to expand their horizons and seeking to learn more about what our country is made of, what makes us who we are as a people and as a country.
We pray for safe travels for all who are here and for the safe return of them as they go back home.
We pray that our time here spent today will be seen as an act of love, as well as an act of righteous indignation in the face of injustices.
And we pray that all persons here today may feel your presence and be drawn closer to you.
In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Drawn to the ministry at thirteen; class president;
student body president; a pastor at eighteen;
state representative at twenty-three; magna cum laude;
two master’s degrees. Your name the same
as a local plantation. You preached in the house Pastor Vesey built,
shuttered for forty years after he was hung
for conspiring an uprising. You preached
in the house where Dr. King
called on Negroes to vote. You spoke
on the senate floor
in a voice so richly literate,
so judiciously rhythmic,
so humane we could not help but hear
Dr. King’s in it. As a people, as a country, I know,
we would give anything
to hear it again.
The words that open this poem are those of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a moment of prayer in a speech given during the 2013 Civil Rights Ride. I discovered it in an article in The Atlantic, which addresses the perils of pastoring a church “baptized in blood and fire.” More information about the late Rev. Clementa Pinckney is available from Emanuel A.M.E. Church.
Photo: Grace Beahm/AP