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Sunday, July 05, 2015

"Ode To Mother Emanuel AME Church & the spirit of Forgiveness"

 This blog entry serves to share, from my own personal experience, what awaited us Plein Air Painters when we planned to honor the Mother Emanuel AME Church with our paintings.

Please know that I am truly humbled by this experience and I only hope to bring honor to those who call Mother Emanuel AME Church their home church and to those who lost their lives because of their love and devotion to their fellow man according to what was taught to them by God through Emanuel's late Pastor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney. 

 It was Wednesday July 1st when I arrived downtown, early, to set up and paint with our Plein Air Painting group that I first saw the church since Dylann Roof opened fire after spending an hour with prayers at their Wednesday night Prayer Meeting June 16th.

"A lot of people expected us to do something 
strange and to break out in a riot," 
said Goff, the church's interim pastor 
until a successor for Pinckney is chosen. 
"Well, they just don't know us. We are people of faith."

I arrived early enough that no one was around at the time.  
I eagerly looked for a place to set up to paint.  

The only people who were around were two men talking right in front of the church as if to be close friends, discussing the matter at the site. 
One man was black and the other man was white.  What a poignant image!  
I couldn't get to my camera fast enough and only caught them as they walked down the block, continuing their conversation.

Abruptly, like a flash of lightening, reality struck me! 
An enormous, overwhelming sense flooded my being.  I was caught suddenly by the kindness and loving gestures evident in what was before me. Large bouquets of flowers, prayer candles, signs, notes, American Flags, and stuffed toys left at the foot of this historic church for those 9 men and women who were taken from us that fateful night.
 Somebody's hands placed these here. Somebody walked and prayed here. Somebody shed tears here.
 It was plain to see how Charlestonians offered their best in the best way they could as they themselves coped with what happened the best way they could cope.  And you could feel their hearts saying, "If I could bring back your loved ones, I would.  But I can't so I will offer my heart instead."
I saw that the wind had knocked down some of the bouquets and crashed some of the glass.  I did my best to place upright some of what had fallen and clean up some of the broken glass.  
That reality which hit me earlier punched me again and the tears burned.

As I investigated the scene closer, 
I noticed beautiful 

Crepe Myrtle trees out in front.
From the ground up to the leaves, 
they were covered with 
permanent marker-messages of 
hope, faith and love,
written by those who came to pray and support 
Emanuel AME congregants.

Scripture references written to help support and encourage

    Then, I noticed the fire hydrant 
was also covered in prayers and love messages and even had three permanent markers there 
for anyone else to write. Someone was thoughtful enough to think of those coming after them,
that they might want to write a message too.
Who thinks of that?

And it hit me.  

My throat grew sore and tears filled my eyes as I looked around in AWE at all of the Love, Respect and Honor on display.

Instantly my mind replayed what I saw, live, on TV during Roof's arraignment; the voices off camera belonging to those family members and friends of the fallen 9 at Roof's hand: "I am not happy at what you have done but because my God forgives me, I forgive you, I am praying for you [Roof], May God have mercy on you [Roof]." 

Wow.  Who does that?

Next, one of my painting friends arrived.  My composure was in check.  As she approached, she had her usual sweet, genuine smile.  Her first words to me were the usual, "How are you?"  (How are you?)
Her genuineness pierced my heart and I couldn't help myself!  I couldn't hold back my silent cry as the tears streamed once again down my cheeks;  Her arms immediately offering a warm hug.
Our third comrade arrived teary-eyed, sniffles, hugs.
It was all such an emotional roller-coaster ride of beauty and sadness.

The reality of it all. hit. me!  It was no longer just a news story I saw on TV, but it was actually playing out before me, in my own front yard!  This was not a distant event that happened to someone on the other side of the world, this happened here! 
And it happened in a place of worship.  To a group of people opening their hearts up to a stranger.  
A line had now been crossed!

By this time, people began to show up.
A couple of tourists came by to get their picture taken in front of the now iconic, National-News-Worthy-Church.

But mostly, people came to pour out more of their love.

A couple originally from Long Island, NY, (now Sarasota, FL residents) on their way up to the Adirondacks, made a detour on their trip to "Pay their respects" to Charleston and Mother Emanuel AME Church.  We struck up a brief conversation which turned to tears and hugs.

I couldn't get over the fact that perfect strangers from another part of the country were taking time from their vacation to pay their respects!!!  That touched me right to the core!  It also inspired me to believe that Love really is the greatest force on the planet.
We exchanged hugs as they whispered in parched voices, "God Bless You." {more tears!}

A woman brings her young children by to add fresh flowers to the massive bouquets. All around me were signs that the love hadn't faded.
A Woman hands out individual flowers to her children to place on the memorial

Gestures big and small were all so monumental in that moment.  It is a difficult thing to describe.  It must be experienced. Sweetness.  Goodness.  Hope.  Endurance.  Grace.  Mercy.  Faith.  Love.

At this point I am well into my painting.
The crowd continues to grow at
the church.  Grabbing my attention is a woman with her
two young boys pulling a
wagon full of water jugs and
buckets.  I over-hear her tell a passer-by her reason for being there: the passer-by thought she was employed by the church.
She wasn't.
Her reason for being there was
that she wanted desperately to help but didn't know how. The idea came in a dream to bring water down to the church and freshen the flowers that others placed there. She credits the inspirational vision to one of the slain who was a friend and who also loved flowers.
She said it felt as though her friend was there watering the flowers through her.

I had to agree.

What a beautiful life-lesson she was teaching her young boys as well!  Love in action!

"The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that [you] may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)." John 10:10

"I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, the person whose ears are open to My words [who listens to My message] and believes and trusts in and clings to and relies on Him Who sent Me has (possesses now) eternal life.  And he does not come into judgment [does not incur sentence of judgment, will not come under condemnation], but he has already passed over out of death into life." John 5:24

"For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds," II Corinthians 10:4 

"Jesus replied, 'This is the work (service) that God asks of you: That you believe in the One Whom He has sent [that you cleave to, trust, rely on, and have faith in His Messenger].'" John 6:29 (but read verse 28 first)

1 comment:

Jill Wolfe said...

Hi Sweet Mary!
You are sooo precious to take the TIME to reflect, write and share this message of LOVE..because, from the beginning of creation until the very end of creation, that message, LOVE, is the one true thread that connects every human to each other...and ultimately to HIM!
Cannot wait to see you at JOY, and paint sunflowers at the Weihs home....many blessings and lots of hugs,
Jill Wolfe