Emanuel AME pastor speaks to Upstate college students

SPARTANBURG COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – It was a message of forgiveness and unity from the senior pastor of Mother Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston.

Reverend Eric S.C. Manning delivered a keynote address Thursday to students at USC Upstate.

“I had to remember there’s more that unites us than divides us, and I had to be courageous enough to find the common threads,” he said.

As he urged people to stand against injustice he recounted the day of the shooting.

“A place where people come to find healing, find strength, find comfort,” he said. “They come never expecting to lose their life.”

He recalled the Wednesday night bible study where everyone was welcomed.

“That person who was just supposed to be there to learn a little bit more about God’s grace,” he said.

It’s the same grace Reverend Manning says taught Mother Emanuel members to forgive Dylann Roof after he killed 9 of their own.

“This was 2015,” he said. “I thought that we had eclipsed this.”

It’s an issue first year USC Upstate students are reading about in a book tackling race.

“Allow them to reflect on issues that are important to the country as a whole and to our community,” said Dr. Monika Shehi, Associate Professor of English and Director of English Composition.

Reverend manning said the conversation is far from over.

“Leave inspired and embolden, ready to take a stand against all of the injustice that is taking place,” he said.

He says athletes taking that stand by kneeling are justified.

“As someone who has served, if Colin Kaepernick or any of the NFL players want to take a knee during the national anthem, that is their right,” he said.

He says the country needs to regain its moral compass and encouraged everyone to unite and forgive.

“They’re still young and they can absorb that and they can be the change,” said Wanda Gebrehiwot who attended the address.

The students say they’ll listen.

“The thing about forgiveness. To be strong enough to say I’m going to let this go,” said Junior Hunter McLeod.

“What got me the most is that he told us to stand together as one,” said Patrice Mole.

Reverend manning also talked about the importance of being careful when expressing views on social media. He said people should do more to communicate in-person.