Betty Deas Clark Appointed Pastor at the Charleston Church Where 9 Were Killed Last Year

Betty Deas Clark

Rev. Dr. Betty Deas Clark has been appointed the pastor at the historic Emanuel AME Church on Saturday. Last year, on the evening of June 17, 2015, during a prayer service, nine people were killed by a gunman in the same church.

Of those who were shot and died included the senior pastor and state senator Clementa C. Pinckney  The morning after the attack, police arrested a suspect, later identified as 21-year-old Dylann Roof, in Shelby, North Carolina. Roof later confessed that he committed the shooting in hopes of igniting a race war. 

Since the shooting, the church had been led by interim pastor Rev. Dr. Norvel Goff, amid controversy. Goff is running for bishop, Clark was appointed by current Bishop Richard Norris, who will retire this summer from his post overseeing the district that spans South Carolina.

The Awendaw native preached her first sermon at the church affectionately called Mother Emanuel at 9:30 a.m. last Sunday morning. Late Saturday, she was crafting her first sermon for her new congregation, one that has much healing to do. She will focus on the message of, "I still have hope," based on a passage from Jeremiah in which God tells the faithful he "plans to give you hope and a future."

Clark said she wants to leave the congregation with a simple message: "In the face of tragedy and uncertain times, we still have a God in whom we can trust."

When the bishop first approached Clark about the widely sought-after post, she was humbled. But when he officially assigned her to Emanuel AME on Saturday: "It took my breath away."

She personally knew five of the nine people killed in the massacre.

"It's just an awesome task," she said. "You want to do God proud with whatever you do and approach it with humility."


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