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Charleston pastor offers support to Pittsburgh synagogue: 'The ministry of presence means so much'

The Rev. Eric S.C. Manning can relate to what ...

Posted: Nov 2, 2018 2:08 PM
Updated: Nov 2, 2018 2:08 PM

The Rev. Eric S.C. Manning can relate to what Rabbi Jeffrey Myers is facing. Nearly a week after a gunman claimed 11 lives at the Tree of Life synagogue, Manning is in Pittsburgh to offer his support and solidarity.

"The ministry of presence means so much," Manning told Alisyn Camerota on CNN's "New Day" on Friday.

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"Just if people can look up and see you, receive a hug, receive a handshake, receive a handkerchief that may be able to wipe away the tears that are falling down from their cheek. That helps immensely and goes a long way."

Manning is the pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston South Carolina, where a white supremacist killed nine members, including the church's pastor, during a Bible study in June 2015. Manning became Mother Emanuel's leader a year after that tragedy.

As the Pittsburgh synagogue lays its members to rest, Manning said he plans to share his congregation's experience in coping with loss.

"While the emotions are still yet raw, while people are still preparing for funerals, while the synagogue members are still looking for answers," he said, "one thing that I will share with them as a testimony is that as time progresses you find the strength that you need to continue to press on, but you also find the strength you need to continue to tell the story."

As a leader of a congregation that has experienced the violence of hate, Camerota asked Manning if he thought comments from President Donald Trump had played any role in what happened Saturday in Pittsburgh.

"That is a hard question to answer, and I would not even fathom to say that his words directly (contributed to it)," he said.

However, he said over a period of time words "have been gone out without, I guess, a counterbalance."

"Words of compassion, words of love, words of working together, words of compromise, those words of course have fallen on deaf ears and are not readily used as frequently as we want them to be."

Even before tragedy struck at the Tree of Life synagogue, Manning said his Sunday sermon already was based on the weight and importance of words.

"The words that come out of your mouth can do much harm, or indeed much good," Manning said he told his congregation. "The choice is yours."

Manning is not alone in showing his support. A social media campaign is encouraging elected officials, civic leaders and Americans of all faiths to show up for Shabbat, Judaism's traditional day of rest from Friday to Saturday evening that often includes prayer, family gatherings and festive meals.

It is a message that has resonated beyond the United States. Jewish leaders across the UK are encouraging their communities to join Americans and attend their local Friday night and Saturday morning services.

The global campaign hopes to show love, unity and community in the face of hate and division.

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