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Hampton Roads Community News

Suffolk Clergy Heed the Call to Charleston

By Billie Montgomery-Cook

On Wednesday, June 17th, our nation was rocked by yet another mass shooting.  This time, it happened during the course of a Bible study and prayer meeting at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC.  The whole world watched as our country learned the details of the senseless deaths of 9 congregants at the hands of a young Dylan Roof, who attempted to start his own version of a race war.  The world also watched as the city of Charleston as well as the rest of our nation came together to prove the shooter wrong.  The outpouring of support for Mother Emanuel Church, the families of the victims as well as the City of Charleston was unprecedented and continues.

Clergy members across the City of Suffolk have shown their support as well.

“On Tuesday, July 7th, we held a prayer vigil that we called, “From Hate to Healing”, that was held at the Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church (Godwin Blvd) here in Suffolk where Rev. Ruffin Alphin is the Pastor”, states Bishop Carlton Upton, Sr, Pastor of the Tabernacle Christian United Church of Christ (East Washington St.).  “It was important to show our solidarity with Emanuel Church and its members”, he continued.  “We also learned that our clergy brother, Pastor Darrell Wade (Macedonia AME Church) has relatives in the Emanuel Church congregation.  Our prayers went out to him and his family as well”.   

But the support for Emanuel Church hasn’t ended there.  On Saturday, September 26, 2015, Suffolk clergy will be traveling to Charleston to show their physical presence as the church and its members continue to heal from this tragedy.

“We hope to carry about 55 ministers and lay people to Charleston that weekend”, declares Bishop Upton. “Our logistics continue to be worked out however, we know that our bus will be leaving early Saturday morning and we will be worshipping with Mother Emanuel Church on Sunday morning at 9:30 AM.  We will be returning at the conclusion of that service.” 

When asked about the origins of the trip, Bishop Upton stated, “The trip actually came out of a conversation that pastors Darrell Wade, T. F. “Skip” Irby (retired and former pastor of West End Bapt. Church) and myself had after the tragedy.  We felt the urgent need to show as much clergy solidarity as possible and it has happened here, across denominational lines!  Our clergy community has come together not just for the prayer vigil but for this trip to Charleston as well.  Other members of our community have stepped up to show their mutual support and as a clergy community we are blessed by that support”.

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That’s where Suffolk City Councilman and auto dealer/ magnate Mike Duman comes in.   His support and solidarity with the local clergy comes in the form of sponsoring the bus that will take the clergy to Charleston.

“What happened in Charleston was a significant tragedy for that city and our country”, states Duman.  “Our city is in the fortunate position of having a strong working relationship between citizens and law enforcement.  I’m proud of that relationship and to be a part of a community that comes together in a demonstration of unity of diversity is something that I love and have to be a part of.  The way our community responded to that tragedy simply shows the character and moral fiber of our community.  My sponsoring the bus so that our clergy can show Suffolk’s concern for Charleston and members of that church is a small way that I can give back to my community.  It’s a pleasure for me to be a part of that effort”, he continued.

Flyers have been sent to all local churches and clergy however additional information for interested clergy and lay persons about securing a space on the bus leaving for Charleston on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015 are encouraged to contact Bishop Upton at Tabernacle Church (757/ 539-3533) as soon as possible.  Spaces are filling fast! 

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