Remembering the Emanuel Nine with the ELCA

On June 17th, 2015 I was in the middle of a trip through the Southeastern United States recruiting young people for my Abundant Life Together and other Life in Service opportunities that are offered to ELCA young adults.  I was also researching whether there was interest from those in the Southeast to host a young adult community focused on racial equality and civil rights.  Click HERE for pictures from the trip.

I was in South Carolina the day that Dylan Roof went into Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, prayed with the members of a Bible study and then shot and killed 9 people. The next day, I found out that two of those killed took classes at an ELCA seminary and were friends of many of my colleagues. I also learned that the shooter was a young adult from an ELCA church. As part of my response I vowed to listen, learn, educate and work for racial equity in my role in ALT Year and in my ministry within the ELCA. That is one of the reasons it is important for me to know First Lutheran is able to participate in this conversation and hopefully this work together.

At the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee voting members voted to make June 17th a commemoration of the martyrdom of the Emanuel 9 (read HERE) “Our relationship to the shooter as well as two of the slain reminds us of both our complicity and our calling. Together we confess that we are in bondage to the sins of racism and white supremacy and, at the same time, we rejoice in the freedom that is ours in Christ Jesus who ‘has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us’ (Ephesians 2:14). May God continue to guide us as we seek repentance and renewal, and racial justice and reconciliation among God’s precious children.”

An ELCA Prayer Service for Commemoration of the Emanuel Nine will be available for online viewing at 11am CST today. The service will include leaders from around the ELCA and ecumenical partners, as well as a sermon by Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton. We join in a time of repentance, mourning and prayer as we remember these nine martyrs and renounce the sins of racism and white supremacy. The service can be viewed at HERE at 11:00 a.m.

The Greater Milwaukee Synod will also be streaming the prayer service today on their Facebook page HERE today at 12 pm noon and 7:30 pm Central Time followed by a Zoom conversation following each watch event, to allow participants a space to collectively process and engage in dialogue.

I hope you will find the time to participate in the commemoration and conversation today, or that you can watch the service as a way of commemorating Juneteenth on June 19th, also known as Jubilee Day or Freedom Day, the celebration of the day when the last slaves in the former Confederacy heard of their emancipation. This day has been celebrated, starting with churches in Texas, since 1866.

Please consider ways you can celebrate your personal freedom, how we can continue to live into the freedom we know in Christ, and the freedom we work for in the world as we align with Jesus’ ministry “to loose the bonds of injustice”(Isaiah 58: 6) and “to let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4:18) so that all can experience the same freedom and equality and live without the fear of racial violence.
–Pastor Josh