Charleston shooting victims honored at local church

The killing of nine churchgoers in Charleston, S.C. on the night of June 17, and the social discussion thereafter, has shocked and engaged the country.

Men, women and children from the Marshalltown area gathered, sang, cried and celebrated the memory of the nine victims at Trinity Lutheran Church in Marshalltown Wednesday night.

“We are all God’s children,” said Gregory Davison, pastor of Trinity, adding “so we are all brothers and sisters.”

Davison was joined in sermon by guest Rev. Terrance W. Cooley, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Marshalltown.

“Everyone as individuals, and everyone in our society today… has heartbreak in their lives,” Cooley said. His message was to lift oneself up when life becomes difficult. The main message of his sermon seemed to be that hate cannot triumph over love.

The focal point of the vigil was a brief presentation of the lives of all nine shooting victims at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Chuch: Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lee Lance, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Susie Jackson and Rev. Daniel L. Simmons, Sr.

Each victim had a small candle lit and placed on a wooden cross in their memory. After their presentation, the shooter, Dillon Storm Roof, was recognized. The pastors said they wanted him to be forgiven and “find the light of god,” as Davison said.

Many of the people in the pews discussed their opinions on the events in Charleston, and why, in their minds, vigils such as the one on Wednesday were important.

“This is about bringing all people together, all races, all denominations together for one cause,” said Kirk Brooks, one audience member. The woman next to Brooks, Linda Borsch, added racism is still an issue in the U.S. today.

“It’s important because people need to know and understand that racism still exists,” Borsch said.

The audience members were free to go up to the cross with candles, light a candle, and have a personal prayer at the cross. Every member of the audience participated. A communion was also held.

“We welcome everyone here,” said Davison, adding “anyone willing can participate in this communion.”

Gayle Strickler, another onlooker, also had strong feelings about the shooting and its aftermath.

“I grew up in Urbandale,” Strickler said. He went down to North Carolina do to work, and was shocked by the some of the differences he saw in the communities there.

“I worked in an integrated workplace, before the Civil Rights Act passed,” he said, “and a lot of people down there did not like integration. I was shocked when I saw signs that said ‘black only’ or ‘white only.’

“We have a long ways to go, but I hope something good comes out of the discussion after this tragedy,” Stickler said.

The vigil was dedicated to the memories of those who died, and the message of “love over hate” was delivered by the pastors.

“I know this is a serious time,” Cooley said. “But this should also be a time to celebrate those who’ve gone on.”