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Little River congregations pray for peace, healing in Charleston shooting deaths

More than 60 people gathered Thursday night in Little River to pray for the victims and families affected by the Charleston church shooting.

Reverends, pastors and community members converged at Saint Paul AME Church in Little River to send love and support – through prayer and worship – after the massacre of nine people Wednesday night at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

Dylann Storm Roof, the 21-year-old suspect, was taken into custody Thursday in Shelby, N.C.

The vigil was a combined effort from Saint Paul AME, Chesterfield Baptist Missionary Church and The Citizen’s Group, headed by the Rev. Johnathan Greene, Jr.

“We thought, with many children in vacation Bible schools, that it would be a good opportunity for the adults to come together and pray,” Greene said.

In between prayers and hymns, the Rev. J. R. Matthews with Chesterfield Missionary encouraged hopefulness and unity across the Christian community. He urged everyone to react peacefully and patiently to violence, instead letting God “take control when the seas become rough.”

“Even after all these deaths, there will be lives that will be changed for the better, in the sense of unity and peace,” Matthews said.

Matthews also encouraged churches to secure themselves to stave off potential crimes.

“More frequently churches are becoming war grounds,” he said. “Let us do what we can do for security, and let God take care of the rest.”

Kantrese Wright Stanley, who learned about the vigil when she showed up for Bible study, said the news of the Charleston murders felt like a punch to the gut. The biggest surprise was the fact that nine people were killed while inside the historic church.

“It’s supposed to be the safest place in the world,” Stanley said. “It just opens up your eyes.”

Stanley’s husband Derrick Stanley said the community vigil was important to show support and strength to their Charleston congregation. He said the Wednesday night tragedy could have happened to any congregation – even one in Little River.

“It could happen in any of our churches, but in essence it is our church here – we’re all one body,” Derrick Stanley said.

Partial reason for the vigil was to begin the healing process, both in the AME church and community, according to Heskeith Myler, steward for Saint Paul.

“We have to forgive, we have to look for strength,” Myler said. “The healing starts with the church and branches out into the community.”

Contact CLAIRE BYUN at 626-0381 and follow her on Twitter @Claire_TSN.

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