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“What Kind of Soil Are We? What Soil is God Calling Us to Become?”

Events Commemorating the Seventh Anniversary of the Mother Emanuel Massacre and Martyrdom

Faith groups across the country will mark the seventh anniversary of the racially-motivated massacre at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church by participating in a commemorative Bible study event. The nationally coordinated weekend of Bible study, prayer and preaching will begin June 17, the day nine parishioners lost their lives in an act of hate and violence in Charleston. S.C. It is also the kickoff of the yearlong Bible study across the nation and denominations. The weekend will conclude June 19, 2022, on Juneteenth, with congregations preaching on a common theme.

The theme for the event, “What Kind of Soil Are We?” is taken from the Bible passage the Martyrs of Mother Emanuel were studying on that tragic night, Mark 4:1-20, commonly known as The Parable of the Sower, and alternatively as the Parable of the Soils. Christian leaders across the nation will use the commemorative event to analyze the Parable of the Sower/Soils, and discuss, “What kind of soil are we? What kind of soil is God calling us to become?” in this critical time as race, history, and politics intersect.

“The Mother Emanuel AME Church community takes this time to welcome you to the 2022 National Bible Study and our Annual Commemoration honoring the legacies of the Emanuel Nine and the Survivors. As we examine the theme “What Kind of Soil Are We”, it is our prayer and hope that our communities will conduct a self-examination of what is in their heart. We must never allow the seed of hatred to pull our communities apart! We must continue to be intentional in reminding our communities about the power of forgiveness and the undeniable fact that love is stronger than hate,” said Rev. Eric S.C. Manning, Senior Pastor, Mother Emanuel AME Church.

“The martyrdom of the Mother Emanuel Nine reminds us that although God does not will everything, God wills something out of everything. The nationally televised Bible study will be used to help advance the cause of freedom and justice in these troubled times,” said Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr., Senior Minister Emeritus of The Riverside Church of New York City, Visionary and Event Co-Convener.

“June 17, 2015 is a day that I will never forget. My life was forever changed when my mother [Mrs. Myra Thompson] was murdered. She was leading the Bible study and with the other victims and survivors in the room, she welcomed in a stranger that took away their lives in an instant. I choose not to let what happened to my mother harden my heart. I know my mother would not want that. In dealing with what happened to my mom, I experienced the power of forgiveness,” said Ms. Denise Quarles, daughter of Mrs. Myra Thompson.

“The Seventh Mother Emanuel AME Commemoration Service for the martyred is a call for a still young nation to rediscover and recover its moral center by reestablishing itself upon the common ground of shared values it holds to be sacrosanct, those that are vital for a society to be spiritually healthy, balanced, and robust. A public discussion of the scripture that members of Mother Emanuel were studying the night of their tragic deaths is a pathway for a nation created ‘under God’ to mature into a future full of promise,” said Rev. Dr. Clarence G. Newsome, President (Ret), National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Event Co-Convener.

“In the summer of 2015, the massacre at Mother Emanuel was widely appalling. Clear-eyed and compassionate response – in Charleston, across the South, and across the country – sowed Gospel seeds of empathy and active engagement to heal and transform the destructive dynamics of race, history and politics. Some fell on rocky ground, and more have been choked by weeds. In this traumatic and tragically divisive summer of 2022, Lincoln’s words of 1862 that ‘We stand to nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of earth’ haunt and resonate with increasing force. May God help us become good soil that grows and yields 100-fold.’” said Rev. W. Douglas Tanner, Jr., United Methodist Minister and Founding Director, The Faith & Politics Institute, Event Co-Convener.

“Seven years after the domestic terrorist attack at Mother Emanuel AME Church and as the nation mourns the innocent lives lost in recent attacks in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas, we find ourselves in the same quagmire,” said House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn. “This national Bible study is much needed and allows the nation to turn the mirror on itself. What kind of soil are we if we cannot or will not protect the lives of students in school and parishioners in their places of worship? We must not allow the threads that hold the fabric of this great country together to become unraveled by appalling silence.”

“As we solemnly remember the tragic murders of nine saints at Mother Emanuel AME Church seven years ago, we reflect not only on the painful challenges our nation still faces but also the tragedies we’ve turned into triumph,” said Senator Tim Scott. “The national Bible Study represents an opportunity to unite in faith as we consider lessons in strength, perseverance, redemption, and courage. As we examine our nation’s heart, we must look to the future and ask: What kind of soil do we want to be? I believe today, more than ever, that our South Carolina family is a beacon of hope and model for how to heal our deepest wounds.”

Charleston, S.C. Mayor John J. Tecklenburg, Congressman James E. Clyburn (D-SC), and Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) will serve as Honorary Co-Chairs for the event. Program participants include:

  • Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Episcopal Church;
  • Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Lutheran Church;
  • Bishop Vashti McKenzie (Ret), AME Church;
  • Rev. Dr. Lisa Bowens, Associate Professor, Princeton Theological Seminary;
  • Rev. Dr. Ellen Davis, Professor, Duke Divinity School;
  • Presiding Bishop Samuel L. Green, Sr., 7th AME Church Episcopal District;
  • Rev. Dr. Obery Hendricks, Columbia Adjunct Professor, Departments of Religion and African American and African Diaspora Studies;
  • Rev. Dr. Marvin McMickle, Director of D. Min. Program, Colgate/Rochester/Crozer Divinity School.

Additional supporters include:

  • Presiding Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, Florida and Western North Carolina Conferences;
  • Sister Joan Chittester, O.S.B., former President, Leadership Conference of Women Religious;
  • Rev. Dr. Paula Dempsey, THRIVE Project Director, Alliance of Baptists;
  • Bishop Jacques Fabre-Jeune, CS, Bishop of Charleston Roman Catholic Church
  • Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, Stated Clerk, Presbyterian Church, USA;
  • Rev. Nancy Petty, Senior Pastor, Pullen Memorial Baptist Church;
  • Rev. Dr. Mitch Randall, CEO, Good Faith Media;
  • Rev. Dr. Eugene Rivers, CEO, Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies;
  • Rev. Dr. William J. Shaw, Former President, National Baptist Convention, USA;
  • Rev. Dr. C. Jeff Woods, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches, USA.

The organizers of the seventh anniversary commemoration event are: Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Jr., Senior Pastor Emeritus of Riverside Church, NY; Rev. Iva Carruthers, CEO, The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference for Social Justice, Chicago; Rev. Dr. Clarence G. Newsome, President (Ret), National Underground Railroad Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati; and Rev. Douglas Tanner, Co-Founder and CEO (Ret), Faith and Politics Institute, Washington, DC; together with: Rev. Dr. Samuel L. Green, Sr., Presiding Bishop of the Seventh Episcopal District of the AME Church; Rev. Eric Manning, Senior Pastor, Mother Emanuel AME Church; and Mrs. Blondelle Gadsden and Mrs. Denise Quarles, sister and daughter of Mrs. Myra Thompson, who was martyred at Mother Emanuel.

In addition to the recent attacks in Buffalo, NY and Uvalde, Texas, Mother Emanuel AME Church also acknowledges the horrific act of violence that occurred May 15, 2022, at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, CA. The commemoration service will take place on June 17, 2022, at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston at 7:00 p.m. For more information on how to view the event, please visit:

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