Lessons in forgiveness from shooting survivors

When the unthinkable happens — a loved one is killed by an assassin’s bullet — is forgiveness possible?

Morning Meditations with Sisters in Community will welcome two special guests from Charleston, S.C., on Friday, Sept. 7, 11:30 a.m., in the Wilton Congregational Church meeting room at 70 Ridgefield Road.

Nine church members were gunned down during a Bible study on June 17, 2015, at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, including the senior pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney. Two family members of those killed and one survivor of the tragedy will visit Wilton to discuss the power of forgiveness in their lives. They will address how their faith caused them to forgive the assassin and pray for his soul.

The community is invited to learn how their lives have taken on new purpose and the empowerment they’re experiencing as result of choosing forgiveness.

The speakers include the Rev. Anthony Thompson whose wife, Myra, was leading the Bible study when she was struck by the assassin’s bullet. Thompson is traveling the country teaching and preaching on the subject of forgiveness. His experience is featured in the soon-to-be-nationally released film documentary entitled Emanuel.

Rose Simmons’ father, the Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons, Sr., was a senior member of Mother Emanuel Church and was also killed. Rose grappled with the grief of senseless murders. She decided her only option going forward was to forgive the gunman. Inspired by her father and her faith, she found the words to speak to the shooter in a crowded courtroom.

“I wanted to extend that very same hand of love and friendship that each of those victims extended to him at that Bible study. Pleading the blood of Jesus over him. Who am I not to do that? I forgave him, before I even knew that he had murdered my father.”

Morning Meditations with Sisters in Community is a prayer group that meets weekly in the Wilton home of Adrienne Reedy. The group also presents a program each year to recognize National Prayer Day.

Polly Shepard has been a member of Mother Emanuel AME Church for decades. She is one of two survivors who were in the study that Wednesday evening. She was spared because the killer’s gun was empty.