Charleston shooting prompts NE Portland vigil - KPTV - FOX 12

Charleston shooting prompts NE Portland vigil

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The prayer vigil held at Bethel A.M.E. Church in NE Portland Thursday. The prayer vigil held at Bethel A.M.E. Church in NE Portland Thursday.

Hundreds of people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds gathered together Thursday evening in NE Portland for a prayer vigil after Wednesday's deadly shooting in Charleston, SC.

The vigil was held at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church on NE 8th Avenue - the only A.M.E. church in Oregon. It's the same denomination as Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, the site of the Bible study massacre.

Many of the people at the vigil had been to Mother Bethel, including church member Helen Irwin.

“I was devastated. Just totally devastated. I couldn't believe it. It took me a couple of hours for me to process this. It's not that I don't process well or fast, it was unfathomable that this could happen in this day and age,” Irwin said. “It doesn't take religion to know that that was an atrocity.”

Attendees gathered at the vigil with a lot of heartbreak and a lot of questions, but also to say love is the only answer in the face of violence.

“God's church cannot be stopped by terrorism,” Rev. Dr. LeRoy Haynes of the Albina Ministerial Coalition told the crowd.

They also remembered the nine victims of Wednesday's shooting by name.

“These are mothers and fathers, these are sons and daughters, these are sisters and brothers, they are friends, they're nieces and nephews. Every life is precious,” added Jan Elders of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.

“One thing we all have is questions,” said Rev. Walter Hills, of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. “We have questions as to why, we have questions as to how, and in the midst of all the questions we have I must admit I don't have the answer.”

Church and community leaders called Wednesday's massacre an act against humanity, an act of racism and an act of terrorism.

But, as one speaker told the crowd, they have no animosity in their hearts and even prayed for the suspected Charleston gunman and his salvation.

The service ended with a candle lighting in a show of solidarity.

Leaders also quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. as saying, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

“We've got a lot of healing to do as a nation, and we've got a lot of coming together to do,” said Pastor Levi Harris, of Pauline Memorial AME Zion Church in Salem. “This cannot divide us. This must bring us together, that's the message... Only love will conquer hate.”

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