COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina lawmakers and clergy members, and some who are both lawmakers and clergy, issued a faith-based call for support and guidance in public prayers on the steps of the State House.
Prayer Under the Dome, organized by the state's Legislative Black Caucus, was billed as "a day of remembrance, a day of celebration." It marks losses such as the murders of nine worshipers, including Senator Clementa Pinckney, in the Charleston church shootings, but also successes such as the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the State House grounds or the selection of Donald Beatty as the state's new chief Supreme Court Justice.
"The church has an ability to reach people on so many different levels, spiritually, morally, collectively, communally," explained District 70 Representative Joseph Neal, also a pastor with Calvary Baptist Church. "They have an ability to speak. They have a bully pulpit, so to speak, and an ability to use that to educate, motivate, and inspire."
In song, prayers, and scripture readings, ministers called for attention to issues that still fester, such as school funding, religious tolerance and crime, as the State House nears the end of the 2016 legislative session.
"Have special grace upon us, even as they wrap up the legislative sessions, Lord," prayed Reverend Alonso Johnson, Assistant Bishop with the Church of God in Christ, "for the things that are left to be done. Things are still on the table, on the agenda."
"We have to recognize the fact that all of us are human," said Neal. "South Carolina right now is facing challenges in that regard with issues like immigration, issues that relate to eradication of poverty. Those are the kinds of issues that require some conversation and a lot of prayer."
District 59 Representative Terry Alexander, also a pastor with Wayside Chapel Baptist Church, extolled the value of prayer -- recalling services on the State House grounds praying for the removal of the Confederate battle flag, which was indeed taken down in the aftermath of the Charleston church shootings.
"Hopefully and prayerfully, this could be the start of a statewide movement," said District 59 Representative Terry Alexander. "That we start praying for the conditions of our communities, our schools, our prison systems, from top to bottom, our government basically."