CONYERS - In the wake of the massacre that took place yesterday at a historically black South Carolina church, Conyers church leaders are getting together to host a prayer vigil tomorrow to honor the victims.
Wednesday evening, 21-year-old Dylan Roof, a white male, walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and fatally shot nine black people. He was arrested this morning in North Carolina, according to reports.
Macedonia Baptist Pastor Billie Cox, who's organizing the praying vigil for the community, says this event is meant to bring the community together during this moment of sadness.
"We're praying for the lives lost and the families affected by the lost," she said. "That doesn't exclude the family of the shooter. They need prayer now as well."
Cox gathered several pastors from other churches in Conyers to attend the vigil as well.
"I wanted to pull together churches so we could show a solidarity front," she said. "We want (people) to know that the church is safe."
At least six pastors have agreed to attend the vigil as of Thursday evening, including Pastor Al Sadler, Church of New Beginnings, Bishop John and Toni Alvarado, Grace Church International, Pastor Tim Hogg, The Father's House, Pastor Efrain Poloche, Conyers Hispanic Seventh Day Adventist and Pastor Al Vaughn, Rock Temple AME Church.
Vaugh says that after situations like this, it's important for people to use love to supersede the hateful act. Also, love needs to be extended to Roof too because "it's the way we're supposed to be as Christians."
"The thing the church really needs to do now is to let love go abound," said Vaugh, who may go to Charleston to speak with some of the victim's families. "This is the time to show the love of Jesus Christ."
Cox says the dress code for the vigil will be casual and people can "just stop by."
"We just want to pray with the community," said Cox.
The vigil will begin at 6 p.m. tomorrow night, Friday, at the Macedonia Baptist Church, 1052 Barton Street, Conyers.
This event is just to pray and bring the community together, says Cox, but in the future, the pastor wants to have a "real" discussion racial tensions, or the "the white elephant in the room" as she referred to it, in this county which "keeps getting swept under the rug."
"Racism is still alive and well," she said. "This isn't the event for that, but we need to talk about."
The pastor brought up how this shooting is similar to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that took place in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. Four young girls died and several others were injured in the bombing, which was racially motivated.
"This is the 21st century," said Cox. "This is something that shouldn't be happening now."
There will be another praying vigil taking place at the Antioch AME Church, 1790 Ebenezer Road, Conyers, on Monday at 6:45 p.m. says Vaughn.