By Jocelyn Grzeszczak
On a balmy Sunday morning in June, the Rev. Eric S.C. Manning told his congregation inside the white stuccoed church on Calhoun Street about revivals.
The preacher, illuminated by a kaleidoscope of stained glass, couldn’t get out the words quickly enough. His speech moved in a rhythmic flow, each sentence punctuated by a gasp of air propelling him to deliver the next.
“God desires to revive his children,” Manning said to the rows of members and visitors in attendance.
He had the room’s full attention. They whooped and cheered and held up their hands, encouraging him to continue.
His sermon seemed particularly fitting for this season of worship at Mother Emanuel AME. The 205-year-old congregation is in the midst of making much-needed repairs to the building’s exterior and interior — including its wood-paneled fellowship hall where, eight years ago on June 17, a self-avowed white supremacist murdered nine Black parishioners.
A national memorial commemorating the Emanuel Nine will break ground July 22 after years of fundraising and delays.
The project, flanking both sides of the church, will feature in part two large marble benches centered around a fountain inscribed with their names. Cynthia Graham Hurd. Susie Jackson. Ethel Lance. DePayne Middleton-Doctor. Clementa Pinckney. Tywanza Sanders. Daniel Simmons Sr. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Myra Thompson.
Working on the memorial has helped cement them — a group including beloved wives, husbands, parents, brothers, sisters, pastors, a librarian, a track coach — in history. It has sustained a reeling congregation, and the broader Charleston community, in processing what happened inside such sacred space.