By Tamica Smith Jeuitt, Senior Communications Specialist, Mississippi Conference
Photo right: Anna Outten, a member of the Ole Miss Wesley Foundation leadership team, captured this photo during a prayer vigil she attended following the shooting at Emanuel AME Church.
The shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Charleston, S.C., hits home for Anna Outten. She is a junior at the University of Mississippi where she will serve on the leadership team for the Ole Miss Wesley Foundation this fall.
The Charleston native said she lives 10 blocks from the church where a gunman shot and killed nine people during Bible study. The shooter reportedly said he did it to trigger a race war.
"A family friend was supposed to be at the Bible study, but she decided at the last minute not to go because she was not feeling well," said Outten. The college student is home on summer break. She was about a 20 minute drive away from the church when her mother called to say that a shooter was on the loose.
"She said don't panic...I was just in shock," explained Outten.
Dozens of phone calls and text messages from other people concerned about Outten followed her mother's warning. Outten said she even heard from Rev. Eddie Willis, the campus minister of the Ole Miss Wesley Foundation.
"I wanted to make sure she was fine and let her know that I was praying for her," said Willis. Since the tragedy, several students have asked him, "Why did this happen?"
"I have answered such questions with comfort that many things are beyond our control and that as Christians, we can respond in a Christ-like manner. I point to the victim's families and the congregation of the Emanuel AME Church, with their calm and stoic demeanor. They are leading our nation without pointing fingers or fits of rage, in grief. In their time of suffering, they are the ones who are being an example to all of us," said Willis.
Outten has been at the side of her Charleston neighbors attending vigils and even feeding people participating in community prayers. She echoes Willis' thoughts about her hometown.
"The body of Christ has come together in a really incredible way. We are going to respond in love and forgiveness...The fact that Charleston has responded with such love and grace and no hate, has really been an incredible thing to witness," said Otten.
More Mississippi Conference Response to the Charleston Church Shooting:
"As a white clergy woman, I have joyfully been appointed to serve a black congregation in east central Mississippi since 2013. During my tenure as pastor, I have become personally and intimately acquainted with the very real struggles of the black community on a daily basis. What happened in Charleston, South Carolina, did not just happen to the members of Emanuel AME and the greater Charleston community. It was not just a horrible event that happened in a place in our nation, it happened to all of us, especially those of us who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ." - Rev. Kathy Price
Photo right: Rev. Kathy Price of Haven Chapel UMC in Meridian, Mississippi, is pictured with church members Albert McNeil, Kathy McQuarters, and their girls Kerri, Kayla, and Kaleeya. Price is also the co-chair on the Mississippi Conference Commission on Religion and Race.
Photo left: This candlelight vigil was held at the historic Burns-Belfry Museum which is the original location of Burns United Methodist Church in Oxford, Mississippi. Over 100 people attended the event organized by Mississippi United Methodist clergy in that area. The mood was described as loving and caring.