CHARLESTON, S.C. – In October 2013, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney welcomed a group of civil rights activists to Charleston and to his church, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal. In videotaped remarks, later posted on YouTube, Pinckney offered an introduction to the church's history along with comments about the role of the church in the African American community and the broader American society. Pinckney and eight others were slain at Emanuel on Wednesday night. Here are some excerpts from his welcome:
"What our church and denomination stands for is really — it stands for the universal vision of people being treated fairly under the law, as God sees us in his sight."
"In around 1822, the church had a minister named Denmark Vesey. Denmark Vesey planned a (slave) insurrection. It was planned so well that once the authorities found out about it, they had a little Guantanamo experiment." Pinckney said the authorities who interrogated Vesey and his co-conspirators withheld the results of the interrogation for years, "because they were afraid that someone else would pick it up and actually put it into practice."
"From the Denmark Vesey incident, the State of South Carolina really, really got concerned and scared. And so we have the military college of south Carolina ... The Citadel." He went on to say, "The guns of the (original) Citadel were basically facing this site and the community of African Americans who were living in this area."
"So the history of our church ... and Africans, as we were known in those days, in Charleston has a significant tie."
"In a nutshell, you can say that the African American church, particularly in South Carolina, really has seen it as its responsibility and its ministry and its calling to be fully integrated and caring about the lives of its constituents and the general community ... Many of us don't see ourselves as just a place where we come to worship, but as a beacon and as a bearer of the culture and a bearer of what makes us a people."
"But I like to say that this is not necessarily unique to us. It's really what America is all about. Could we not argue that America is about freedom — whether we live it out or not? But it really is about freedom, equality and the pursuit of happiness. And that's what the church is all about. Freedom to worship and freedom from sin, freedom to be fully what God intends us to be and have equality in the sight of god. And sometimes you got to make noise to do that. Sometimes you may have to die like Denmark Vesey to do that. Sometimes you have to march, struggle and be unpopular to do that."
"Our calling is not just within the walls of the congregation, but we are part of the life and community in which our congregation resides."
"We don't like to see our church as a museum but still a place of change and still a place where we can hopefully change and work on the hearts and minds and spirits of all people."