DePaul Charleston Vigil – Opening Remarks

Rev. Keith Baltimore,University Minister, DePaul Christian Ministries, led a July 1 vigil on the Lincoln Park campus for the DePaul community to honor those killed in Charleston, S.C.  Here are his opening remarks.

vigil candles

This afternoon, we as community have come together to acknowledge and remember the nine people whose lives were tragically ended in Charleston, South Carolina.

On the evening of Wednesday, June 17, 2015, nine people of faith gathered as they always did for Bible study, fellowship and prayer at their church – the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston. During that bible study, they welcomed someone they did not know into their sacred space.  This person sat among them a while, before standing and violently shooting and killing nine people.

The unusual nature of this tragedy can cause even the most devout person to doubt or scramble for some meaning that makes sense. Trying to answer the question of “Why? Why? Why…” can be frustrating and overwhelming.  I know because I’ve been there… In fact, I’m still there.  I’m still in that cold, dark space in my heart and head trying to sort it all out.  As of today, I have nothing.  I’m still confused, still at a complete loss and I am still searching for something that will help me make sense of all this evil.

At some point we may need to recognize that we won’t be satisfied.  While I may never understand this… I refuse to accept it.  I refuse to get used to innocent people being savagely killed for some insane reason.  We must not become desensitized to violence that tears away at our community and our spirit.   I’ll admit to you again that I don’t have any answers, but let me offer to you something very small that I know for sure that has helped me.  Nothing…nothing stays the same.  I know for sure that our country and its people have the capacity to change.  So I will hold on, I will continue to work and I will keep on fighting until true change comes.

There is much to learn from this tragedy.  The discussions and, more importantly, the work necessary to identify and then end what caused this great tragedy must and will continue.  We can’t allow ourselves to become distracted by trite debates over state flags that simply symbolize racism and do nothing to end actual racism.  The time for wrestling with the cause of this great evil that occurred in Charleston will come soon enough, but for today… today we must admit that we feel broken, shocked and overwhelmed with sadness.  So right now… we will just sit together, cry together, and remember them the best way we know how.

A concurrent vigil was also held on the Loop campus, and moment of silence was held at 12:30 p.m. campus wide for those who could not gather as a community.  We will continue to hold all affected in our prayers, and DePaul is sending a Resolution for the nine church members, read at the vigil, to Emanuel AME on behalf of the university.

Abdul-Malik Ryan, Assistant Director of the Office of Religious Diversity, welcomes mourners to a memorial service for the victims of the Charleston (SC) church shooting. (DePaul University/Jamie Moncrief)
Guests light candles in honor of the victim as the DePaul University community gathered for simultaneous memorial services Wednesday, July 1, 2015 at the Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Chapel and the St. Louise de Marillac Chapel to remember and mourn the nine victims of the Charleston church shooting. (DePaul University/Jamie Moncrief)
Guests light candles in honor of those who were killed. (DePaul University/Jamie Moncrief)