by Tom Grubisich
"There are a lot of nice things that I can say about this person," said Rev. Dr. Betty Deas Clark, pastor of Mother Emanuel Church, standing at her pulpit. "He's humble, he's kind, he's compassionate. But all I need to say is he's our Mayor, John Tecklenburg. Thank you, God."
Whereupon, the Mayor walked from the front-row pew he occupied with his wife, Sandy, to the piano a few feet away, sat down and played (and sang) "Amazing Grace."
It happened at Mother Emanuel's Father's Day service Sunday morning, two days after the church, the city, the state and the nation commemorated the first anniversary of the massacre of the Charleston Nine on June 17, 2015.
Tecklenburg is an accomplished, lifetime pianist, whose specialty is early jazz,. Fitting for the occasion at Mother Emanuel, he is the father of five children.
On Friday, the Mayor joined other local officials in calling for more action against the gun violence that claimed the Charleston Nine. In a commemorative event at TD Arena, Tecklenburg said, "Can't we at least remove the availability of assault weapons to those who have broken the law, those who have mental issues. Can't we at least complete reasonable background checks for folks before purchasing weapons?"
The most recent mass killing -- of 49 people at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando on Sunday, June 12 -- occurred within less than a week of the first anniversary of the Charleston massacre.
At Sunday's Father's Day service at Mother Emanuel, Pastor Clark cited the Orlando mass murder during the altar call where she laid her hand on a stream of kneeling worshippers who recommitted themselves to Christian life.
In the Father's Day litany that followed, Brother William Seabrook told the audience in the packed sanctuary, "We thank you for this day to celebrate and commemorate our fathers. As we continuously pray and support them, may they accept and take care of the gift of fatherhood."
Commemorative events throughout the city will continue through Saturday, June 25.
On Monday morning at 9 o'clock , a large mural of books by artist Nick Kuszyk will be dedicated to one of the nine victims of the massacre, Cynthia Graham Hurd, at John L. Dart Branch Library at 1067 King St. In her long career with the Charleston County Public Library system, which including managing the Dart Branch, Hurd was a committed advocate of literacy programs for young people. The creation of the Cynthia Graham Hurd Foundation for Literacy and Civic Engagement was announced last month.
The full schedule of commemorative events is here.