Amy Hickman fought back tears and paused for a while before she could figure out how to put what she was feeling into words.
“I don’t know how to say it,” she said. “My heart is just torn. And I guess I’ve just been very mad. My heart is just broken.”
Hickman was one of about 40 people who gathered at First United Methodist Church in Conway about an hour before service to lend their support and love to the members of Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, where nine people were killed in a mass shooting.
“I believe that we need to love each other,” Hickman said. “That’s what God would want us to do.”
Members at First United rang hand bells, some crying, while the church bells sounded at 10 a.m. Sunday.
A website run by the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, www.Charlestonly.com, encouraged places of worship across the city and country to ring their bells at 10 a.m. Sunday to show unity with Mother Emanuel A.M.E. as well as with each other.
Dylann Storm Roof, 21, is being held without bond in Charleston on murder charges in connection with the shooting, which happened Wednesday night at Mother Emanuel during Bible study.
“It matters not your denomination, only that you have faith in compassion and unity for all people,” it said on the website.
Kyle Randle, pastor at First United in Conway, said providing a place for his parishioners to was only a small piece of what could be done to stand with the members of Mother Emanuel and the families of those who were killed.
“I think that we have an obligation, as brothers and sisters in Christ, to bear witness not only to the community Charleston, but the state and the nation,” he said, pausing to find the right words. “I’m at a loss. I’ve struggled all week.”
First United was one of the Grand Strand churches who participated in “Chime With Charleston,” with several churches from across the country also participating.
Hickman, a Conway resident and member at First United, said it was important to both her and her mother that her 6-year-old niece Cassidy Dusenbury take part in the bell ringing.
“I just want the whole world to know that we need to love one another and put aside our differences,” she said. “I want to be strong like the families that forgave [the shooter]. And I am so thankful for them.”
Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or on Twitter @TSN_mprabhu.