Benton Harbor church looks for hope in Charleston shooting

All around the nation churches continue to mourn the deaths of nine members of the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, including many congregations in Michiana.

Union Memorial is the oldest AME church in Benton Harbor.

Sunday was not only a celebration of 147 years of service to this community, but also a beacon of light for a denomination going through dark times.

“It has shaken the nation and definitely has impacted the African Methodist Episcopal church,” said Bishop John R. Bryant.

Guest Speaker Bishop Bryant led Sunday's sermon at Union Memorial with a simple messagethe doors of the church are still open.

“The Christian faith always does it's best work in the crucible,” he said.

The devastating shooting in Charleston has pushed many closer to faith.

“In times of need when people struggle, this is when they need church,” said the mayor of St. Joseph, Michigan, Mike Garey.

And closer to a welcoming church that's been a part of this community for 147 years.

“We don't look at people where they come from, we just want to help them get from where they are to where they need to be in Christ,” said Pastor Minnie Autry.

While most churches held somber services, Union Memorial respectfully held a celebration for the good that came out of a bad situation.

“He thought he was doing something to start a war, but he's just bringing us closer together,” said Pastor Autry.

And much like the doors to their church remain open, this congregation believes Emanuel's doors will stay open as well.
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