NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The tragedy at the historic Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. is not too far away to touch those in New Orleans who share the same religious denomination.
"It's such an atrocious crime, particularly in the house of worship. This where we come for peace, for the uplifting of our spirits," said David Gauthier, chair of the trustee board at Union Bethel AME Church in New Orleans.
The 81 year old walked outside the church Thursday afternoon. He was baptized there and is steeped in the AME tradition of community involvement.
"When someone goes into the house of worship and commits this kind of crime, then it just sort of lets us know that we've got a lot of work to do in this society," said Gauthier.
His pastor, the Rev. Keith Sanders was not at the church. He was traveling to "Mother Emmanuel" as the Charleston Church is fondly called because of its rich history.
"We want to be there to lend support," Rev. Sanders said in a telephone interview Thursday.
He penned a heartfelt message about the tragedy to his congregants.
"This time is not a time to harbor hatred, it's a time for us to come together, no color lines, no division among our education or our classes," said Rev. Sanders.
"When these kinds of tragedies happen, certainly objectively they are sinful, they are immoral, they are beyond our belief," said New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who is the leader of the local catholic church.
Aymond called the shooting rampage a terrible tragedy.
"We can't prevent someone who is filled with revenge or evil or is mentally ill, we cannot prevent them from doing what they do, but that doesn't mean that we should become paranoid," he said.
In the wake of the merciless act in the place of worship that claimed the lives of the church's pastor and eight others, some in the public have renewed talk of whether clergy members should be armed with guns.
"To think of church leaders carrying around a gun is impossible in my mind, it just doesn't make sense, it doesn't fit in with who we are," said Aymond.
Gauthier feels the same.
"Believers like us, we're not, we don't live in fear," he said.
And come this Saturday an ecumenical service will be held at Union Bethel AME to remember the victims and also those who must go on without them.
"To sort of uplift everyone's spirits," said Gauthier.
"Both Black and White, we're coming together to pray and show solidarity amongst all of the clergy persons in the city," Pastor Sanders, said of the weekend event.
This Thursday at 7 p.m. a prayer service will be held at Payne Memorial AME Church on South Liberty Street in New Orleans.