Honoring the Emmanuel Nine: Lessons on Grief and Anti-Racism


As members of the Nativity Lutheran Church community, we stand in solidarity with Mother Emanuel AME Church and the families of the victims of the tragic shooting that took place in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17th, 2015. On this eighth anniversary of the massacre that took the lives of Clementa C. Pinckney, Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Lee Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson, we take time to reflect, learn, and honor their memory. In 2019, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Churchwide assembly recognized this date as a commemoration to honor those we have lost and renew our commitment to building a world free from racist violence. In this blog post, we share our reflections on grief, anti-racism, and the importance of coming together as a community to support each other during difficult times.

Grief is a universal experience that we all share at some point in our lives. Whether we lose a loved one, a job, a relationship, or a dream, the pain of loss can be unbearable. In the case of the Emmanuel Nine, the trauma of racial violence has left deep wounds in the hearts and minds of their families, friends, and communities. As we mourn their loss, we must also acknowledge the systemic racism that perpetuates this type of violence in our society. We cannot separate individual acts of hate from the larger structures of oppression that marginalize and dehumanize people of color.

As a church community committed to social justice, we have a responsibility to address racism in all its forms, both within our own hearts and in the world around us. We cannot be neutral or silent when confronted with acts of hatred and bigotry. We must speak out against racism, educate ourselves and others, and work towards creating a more equitable and inclusive society. This means confronting our own biases, listening to the experiences of marginalized communities, and taking action to dismantle systems of oppression.

When we experience grief, it can be difficult to find the right words or know how to support others who are also grieving. However, we can show up for each other in meaningful ways, such as offering a listening ear, providing practical support like meals or childcare, or simply holding space for someone to express their emotions. We must resist the urge to diminish or dismiss the pain of others, and instead, validate their experiences and offer empathy and compassion.

One way Nativity honors the memory of the Emmanuel Nine and other victims of racist violence is our ongoing commitment to action and holding ourselves as a community accountable for this promise we have made. As a community of action, we can continue to support organizations and other congregations that work towards racial justice, educate ourselves on the history and impacts of racism, and advocate for policies that promote equity and inclusion. Let us also continue to find ways to engage in dialogue with those who may not share our perspectives, seeking to understand their views while also standing firm in our own values.

The commemoration of the Emanuel Nine is a reminder that grief and anti-racism are intertwined issues that we must address with compassion and commitment. As a church community, we stand in solidarity with those impacted by racist violence and commit ourselves to building a just and equitable society. We recognize that while grief can be difficult, it can also be a catalyst for change when we channel our pain towards action. Let us honor the memories of the Emanuel Nine by working towards a world where all people are valued, respected, and safe from harm.

Written by Dr. Kelly Sherman-Conroy (Director of Public Ministry)


  • ELCA Website https://www.elca.org/emanuelnine
  • ELCA “Prayers, Litanies, and Laments for the Commemoration of the Emanuel Nine” | PDF | DOCX |
  • “Terror and Prophetic Witness,” a litany by Senior Bishop Adam J. Richardson, Jr., African Methodist Episcopal Church | PDF |
  • “The Doors of the Church Are Still Open,” a litany in memory of the Emanuel Nine by Senior Bishop Adam J. Richardson, African Methodist Episcopal Church | PDF |
  • “ACT NOW: Unite to End Racism,” a litany by Senior Bishop Adam J. Richardson, Jr., African Methodist Episcopal Church | PDF |
  • Litanies for the Emanuel Nine, Council of Bishops of the AME Church (2019) | PDF |
  • ELCA “Confession, Repentance and Commitment to End Racism Sunday” (Sept. 6, 2015) | PDF | DOCX |
  • Resources for learning more about combating white supremacy can be found through Briarwood Leadership Center sessions on white supremacy and racism. bwtx.org/developing-leaders/pages/white-supremacy-racism