MONTGOMERY - As a wreath was placed in the atrium of Troy University's Rosa Parks Museum on Friday afternoon in memory of the nine lives lost in a shooting at a Charleston, S.C. church, participants in the ceremony expressed their grief, found strength in their faith and vowed to make a difference by addressing troubling issues and having difficult discussions.
Troy University officials and members of the Montgomery community joined in the ceremony to remember those killed during a Wednesday evening prayer meeting at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The church's pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney was among the victims.
Dr. Felicia Bell, director of the Rosa Parks Museum, led the program, explaining that not only was Mrs. Parks a longtime member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church but also a deaconess, the highest position for a laywoman within the denomination.
"It is difficult to think about such a senseless act of violence and we wonder how and why such things happen," Dr. Bell said. "We want to be able to address such acts of terrorism and have difficult conversations about issues such as hatred and racism here at the Rosa Parks Museum. Through these discussions, we hope that we can learn from each and make a difference within our communities and our world."
Rev. Farrell J. Duncombe, pastor of Montgomery's St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church, knew two of the victims personally through service on denominational committees and grieved for the congregation and families of the victims.
"It may not come forth right now, but there are lessons in each of life's episodes," Rev. Duncombe said. "There's no doubt that we question why. Times such as this call us to gather and come together. I challenge each of us to seek our answers by talking to God. This too shall pass, but what will we learn from this."
Robert James, president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, acts of violence such as the church shooting make one wonder "what's wrong with people?"
"I hope and pray that we will get our young people involved in discussions about what we can do about violence in the world," James said. "How we live our lives can have a tremendous impact on our young people. What message are we sending? This wreath that we place here today reminds us of the witness we can have in our community and in our world."
Aminta Johnson, a graduating senior at Troy University, encouraged those in attendance to remember those involved in prayer.
"This is such a tragic event. I can't imagine what the families and members of the congregation are feeling right now," she said. "I am praying for the families, the church, the city of Charleston and the state of South Carolina.
Dr. Lawson Bryan, senior minister of Montgomery's First United Methodist Church, provided the invocation and the benediction for the ceremony.
During Friday's wreath-laying ceremony at Troy University's Rosa Parks Museum, the Rev. Farrell J. Duncombe, pastor of the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in Montgomery, reflects on Wednesday's shooting that took nine lives at Charleston, S.C.'s historic Emanuel AME Church. Among the victims was the church's pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney.
Dr. Felicia Bell, director of Troy University's Rosa Parks Museum, leads a memorial wreath-laying ceremony on Friday in remembrance of the nine victims of Wednesday's shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.