FLORENCE, SC – Since the Charleston shooting and the church fire in Greeleyville, AME churches around the state have been struggling with the tragedies they’ve had to face.
Wednesday, 550 AME churches from all across South Carolina came together and showed unity as they prayed and planned for the future.
Over one thousand people gathered at the Florence Civic Center for the annual AME Church Conference.
As leaders opened the service with songs they sing every year, this year, the songs seemed to hold new meaning.
While church members say the conference is usually a time to plan, this time, the topics were more about reflection, grief counselling, and finding ways to push forward.
“We lean on each other even in good times and in bad times. So, when we come together now, we support each other by being together. We can depend upon each other,” said AME Pastor Arthur Ford.
Ford says he’s come to the conference for ten years, but says this year, the message is stronger than ever.
“We are so glad to be able to fellowship with each other during a time of loss, but also, we have this in mind, that God is still in the midst of his people. You may burn down the building, but you cannot burn down the church. The church will stand,” said Ford.
For 13-year-old Sierra Gregg and her friend Amber Green, that’s what the conference is all about.
Gregg says they asked a church friend drive them to Florence from Mount Pleasant because they feel it’s important for their generation to have a voice in the future of the church.
“We’ll know what to do if something like a bad tragedy happens, and we’ll know how to help each other get through it,” said Gregg.
Helping each other get through tragedy was the main point of the service.
Leaders of the AME churches say they hope the conference will be a step in the right direction for the healing process.
The conference will last until Friday, and members of all AME churches in South Carolina are invited to attend.