Emanuel AME Church – Charleston, South Carolina

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SCIWAY offers our prayers and heartfelt condolences to the congregation of Emanuel AME Church following the June 2015 fatal shooting of nine church members, including the Reverend Clementa Pinckney. Other members lost in the tragedy were Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, the Reverend DePayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, the Reverend Daniel Simmons, the Reverend Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson.

Overview of Emanuel AME Church

The Gothic Revival building that houses Emanuel AME Church in Charleston is a testament to the determination of the church’s founders and its early congregation. The present-day structure with its signature steeple was built in 1891, replacing an earlier wooden church from 1872 that was damaged in the Charleston Earthquake of 1886. Many of the brick and marble panels were restored between 1949 and 1951.

Emanuel AME Spire

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The origin of Emanuel AME dates to 1816, when Morris Brown organized a withdrawal of the Charleston Methodist Episcopal Church’s black members over a burial ground dispute. The newly-formed congregation quickly established themselves as an African Methodist Episcopal church, a denomination that was founded earlier in Philadelphia.

Brown was eventually jailed for violating laws restricting free and enslaved blacks from holding religious gatherings without white supervision. After the first incarnation of the church was burned under a cloud of suspicion over a suspected slave uprising, the congregation continued to worship until 1834, when all-black churches were officially outlawed. After a period of underground worship, the church formally reorganized publicly in 1865 and adopted the Hebrew name Emanuel, meaning “God is with us.”

The church is the oldest AME church in the South and one of the oldest black congregations south of Baltimore, Maryland.

History of Emanuel AME Church

Emanuel AME Church in Charleston has a long history of freedom, slavery, rebellion, and peace. The church began as an outgrowth of the Free African Society, formed in Philadelphia in 1787, and was originally comprised of both slaves and free blacks. In 1816, the year the AME denomination was formed, black members of Charleston’s Methodist Episcopal Church left over a dispute regarding burial grounds and joined the new African Methodist Episcopal (AME) denomination.

Emanuel AME Charleston

Bill Segars of Hartsville, 2005 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The new AME church met in the Hampstead suburb (Charleston’s French Quarter) and was known as Bethel because it was one of three AME churches on the Bethel Circuit. The new church was led by Reverend Morris Brown, himself a free black.

The church burned in 1822 after a planned slave insurrection known as the Denmark Vesey conspiracy was discovered. The church was the suspected meeting place for the planning of the rebellion. Though Reverend Brown was acquitted of conspiracy in the plot, he nonetheless was forced out of South Carolina. Former slave Denmark Vesey, the conspiracy’s architect, was not as fortunate. He had been a founder and active member of the church and was convicted of using his skills as a religious leader to encourage slaves and free blacks to join the uprising. Vesey was kept in Charleston’s City Jail until he was hanged, along with 36 of his co-conspirators.

Emanuel AME Steeple

Bill Segars of Hartsville, 2005 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Though the church rebuilt, it was forced to close in 1834 due to a new law prohibiting any black person – free or enslaved – to worship without the oversight of whites. Fear of future slave revolts had gripped the city, and many residents erected iron spikes along their gates – known as chevaux-de-frise – to prevent rebelling blacks from entering their homes. An example of the ironwork remains at 27 King Street.

However, members of the AME church continued to congregate; they met secretly and illegally until the end of the Civil War. Once blacks were permitted to organize their own churches in 1865, the church was reborn as Emanuel AME Church. The first church under this new name was built in 1872 at the current site, yet was severely marred in the great earthquake of 1886. The present Gothic Revival building replaced the damaged church in 1891 and was restored and stuccoed in 1949. Emanuel AME is known as the oldest AME church in the south.

Emanuel AME Church Memorials

Following the tragic shooting of nine church members – including the church’s minister, the Reverend Clementa Picnkney, also a South Carolina state senator – on June 17, 2015, people from all over the globe have expressed their love, grief, and support by leaving memorials outside of the church.

Emanuel AME Memorials

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Those who wished to leave thoughts and prayers for others to read simply left messages on a tree outside the church, seen below. Several of the donated objects are in the process of being archived for the church by volunteers from the Charleston Archives, Libraries and Museums Council. Pieces of art, sculpture, flowers, and notes are among the many items given to the church as a sign of support from mourners.

Emanuel Tree

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Two months after the shooting, the entrance of the church is still flanked with new memorials. Each day people arrive at Emanuel AME to pay their respects to the victims, their families, the parishioners, and the church itself.

Emanuel AME Church Info

Address: 110 Calhoun Street, Charleston, SC 29401
Website: http://www.emanuelamechurch.org

Emanuel AME Church Map

Emanuel AME Church – Add Info and More Photos

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28 Comments about Emanuel AME Church

Marc Kornblatt says:
July 29th, 2015 at 6:22 pm
Sue SchwabNo Gravatar says:
June 26th, 2015 at 12:17 pm

May their souls and the souls of all who depart with the mercy of Our Lord Jesus Christ, rest in peace.

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
June 23rd, 2015 at 6:01 am

Hi, Arthur. What a kind gesture. I believe your poem will have a better chance of reaching the church if you use the website above the map on this page. Best wishes to you, and thank you for sharing your gifts.

Arthur GarciaNo Gravatar says:
June 22nd, 2015 at 9:30 pm

Dear Sirs:
I have written a poem for the Emmanuel AME church,
I would love to send it to the pastor to share with the parishioners in this terrible tragedy….if you would like it I would be happy to send it to you for the healing process. Sincerely, Arthur Garcia

Michael DickersonNo Gravatar says:
June 22nd, 2015 at 1:13 pm

Emmanuel AME Clergy & community:
You have my heartfelt condolences over the loss of Rev. Pinckney & all members of the congregation. With all that has gone on recently, America & the world needs patron saints Christian Fellowship to show us how to act. And, perhaps that was God’s plan. All of you will remain in our prayers … always.

Sharon NeupauerNo Gravatar says:
June 22nd, 2015 at 9:55 am

From Charlotte: We’re deeply saddened by such evil, but God will prevail! Our church congregation prayed yesterday for all of you. And what a SHINING example you are for all of us. I’m so proud to say there is a city like yours in our great land. You show what a true Christian spirit should be and your city will be smiled upon by God forever. Our love and hearts to all of you.

gerardNo Gravatar says:
June 21st, 2015 at 8:26 pm

We in Louisiana are prayer for you, so we love you and God bless you.

Barb Barnes says:
June 21st, 2015 at 2:25 pm

My prayers go out to the 9 families this morning as I watch the church service on television. May God be closed to all of you as you walk forward on the journey of healing.

Babette ReynoldsNo Gravatar says:
June 20th, 2015 at 4:44 pm

My heart is full of anguish and I can’t stop crying every time that I see the news about this senseless, horrible, hateful tragedy. I will continually pray for the families, and that this country can get past this hate. We just have to. We all have to work together for this to happen. God bless the families of the victims and the whole Charleston community.

Shelia Chapman Montgomery says:
June 20th, 2015 at 3:51 pm

My heart breaks and my soul trembled as I watched and listened to the Horrible news of what has happened to your families. With an open heart you welcomed this young man to join as you continued your worship service….I pray comfort and peace to each and every one, God, I pray take you into the embrace of his loving arms….

Deb LeeNo Gravatar says:
June 20th, 2015 at 12:55 pm

I hurt inside for all of you at Emmanuel Church. The love and forgiveness that you have shown toward the enemy is a tremendous example of Christ’s love. You’re are myBrothers and Sisters in Christ and so I will keep you in my prayers for strength and comfort.

Daniel J KenneyNo Gravatar says:
June 19th, 2015 at 4:22 pm

We love you and are praying for you. LOVE ALWAYS WINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! May the Lord’s love and peace comfort and surround you!!!!!!!!!!

Tedn Caroline Ackman says:
June 18th, 2015 at 7:44 pm

It's times such as this that we believers in The Christ (haMessiah) can take comfort in this Psalm: 116:15. Our prayer of Comfort and Consolation ascends to The Father – Abba – that He will indeed send you all, His Grace to forgive as well as praying for the shooter's soul to be purified and to receive acceptance of the Holy Redemption paid for by Jesus on the cross for us all. AMEN

Willa Lewis says:
June 18th, 2015 at 6:25 pm

How can we help?

Toni Marie Moody says:
June 18th, 2015 at 5:36 pm

My heart goes out to the people and their families. Such a bad thing to happen to good people. Condolences are not enough. I pray that God has blessed them all. Churches are everyone's sanctuary. I pray for everyone to be safe to praise God. Amen.

J Ken SmithNo Gravatar says:
June 18th, 2015 at 4:42 pm

I feel your sorrow and hope that you will heal quickly.My joy would be that each of you will feel the hand of Christ upon your head, and find peace. I would also like to get a recent tape of one of Rev. Pinkney’s sermons. I’m sure I would enjoy it. Let me know the cost and I shall be happy to send it. God Bless & keep you until He comes.

J Ken Smith

Carol Miller Gerber says:
June 18th, 2015 at 3:16 pm

Such a senseless tragedy, it saddens me deeply. My prayers and petitions to all who grieve, may God’s comfort pour down a mighty balm on your spirits and may our country stand together, condemning such hatred.

Carol N Stan Smith says:
June 18th, 2015 at 2:52 pm

This is so horrible, our prayers are being sent to all the families of the victims. you must remember that God has everything in control and this man will be caught and punished. Be Blessed all of you.

Eugene Williams, Sr.No Gravatar says:
June 18th, 2015 at 1:38 pm

My prayers goes out to all the families and may God with all His power give spiritual strength during this trying time.

Donna Shelley says:
June 18th, 2015 at 1:14 pm

Our prayers to the victims, their families and friends. May God help all of us to find the strength and inner peace we will require to heal our hearts.

Coleen Dyer Wybranski says:
June 18th, 2015 at 12:19 pm

I am so, so very sorry. There are so many prayers coming from my family to yours. It's not much in the scheme of things, but I hope it helps with the healing.

Nancy MacLean Coppola says:
June 18th, 2015 at 11:34 am

My heart cries for your loss. We need to unite with each other at all times against bigotry and ignorant hatred. May the light surround you.

Linda M DeverNo Gravatar says:
June 18th, 2015 at 11:24 am

May the Lord’s choicest blessings rest upon you and the comforter soothe your hearts. May you know that many people are praying and add their support to your families, churches, communities, and state. Please know that I am among them. We love you dear brothers and sisters.

Marguerite Avery says:
June 18th, 2015 at 11:15 am

I'm speechless, but prayerful theat God will comfort & strengthen the families & friends affected by this act. PRAY!!!!!!

Thomas W. Wilson says:
June 18th, 2015 at 10:53 am

My deepest sorrow, prayers and love to all. I wept this morning when I started to read about this. I pray that the healing power of God over take all the families and friends, that God's love and peace will be with you all.
Love and prayers, Thomas Wilson Ordained Minister.

Tina CooperNo Gravatar says:
June 18th, 2015 at 6:10 am

I am from Charleston and am so heartbroken to hear about this horrible tragedy and have the victims families in my prayers. I hope the man who did this is caught quickly.

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
March 5th, 2014 at 5:38 am

Yes, Emanuel A.M.E. Church does have a burial ground; however, it is off site of the church itself. It is located on Lemon Street, near Magnolia Cemetery in the Charleston Neck area.

maarjorie wilsonNo Gravatar says:
March 4th, 2014 at 6:43 pm

I was wondering if this church has burial grounds. My great-grandparents’ death certificates have Emanuel Ground on them dated 1894 and 1897.

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