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Oxford Prayer Vigil Honors 9 Killed in South Carolina Church Shooting

Courtesy of Burns-Belfry United Methodist
Courtesy of Burns-Belfry United Methodist

Many Oxonians gathered at the Burns-Belfry United Methodist Church to pray in the wake of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting Wednesday night in Charleston, South Carolina.

Here is a video of the gathering.

About 100 Oxford area residents gathered at the Burns-Belfry in a prayer vigil honoring the nine people killed by a lone gunman in South Carolina earlier this week.

Organized by local pastors, the diverse gathering heard speakers who reflected on America’s divided racial past and the hopeful promise of a future of unity and concern for all.

The Rev. Eddie Rester, pastor of Oxford-University United Methodist Church, said “Tonight is important not only to be in pray for families and a community that is broken, but for me as a Methodist, because the Emanuel AME church is part of our wider family.”

The nine people killed in South Carolina were attending a Wednesday night Bible study class at the Emanuel AME Church that is part of the Methodist denomination.

The candlelight vigil was held at a historic former African-American church, the Burns United Methodist Church, which is now relocated. The Burns-Belfry building is a museum and community center but played a central role during the racial strife that gripped Oxford and Mississippi in another era.

The Rev. Bill Barksdale, pastor of St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church, read the names of each individual killed in South Carolina and led the group in prayer.

The Rev. Chris Diggs, senior pastor of Burns-United Methodist Church, was among a group of local pastors organizing the event. He said, “Tonight’s coming together of Christians from across racial lines makes me proud of Oxford. Not every community is expressing the concern we express tonight.”

Pastors Bobby Dailey and Pat Ward also participated in the event, which included hymns by the Burns Choir with a prelude by Sue Gaston.

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