St. James AME Zion Church in Ithaca will hold Vigil of Remembrance for Charleston victims

June 23, 2015 by Rachel Cera

The St. James African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church in Ithaca's west end invites the community to "A Vigil of Remembrance for the Charleston Nine," calling to memory the nine churchgoers slain in Charleston, South Carolina last Wednesday night. The gathering will begin at 6pm this Thursday evening, June 25th.

St. James AME Zion Church in Ithaca. Photo courtesy of Amber Gilewski.St. James AME Zion Church in Ithaca. Photo courtesy of Amber Gilewski.Believed to be the oldest church in Ithaca, and among the oldest in the AME Zion system, the St. James AME Zion Church is located at 116 Cleveland Avenue in Ithaca's west end. Begun in the 1830s and modified many times since, the church building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. The church was a stop on the Underground Railroad, and both Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass are known to have visited St. James, according to the National Park Service. It was also in the basement here where seven black Cornell students founded Alpha Phi Alpha, the nation's oldest official black fraternity, in 1906.

Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, known as "Mother Emanuel," was the site last week where nine members of the church, including the pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, were shot and killed. Hundreds of worshippers filled the pews on Sunday as the church reopened for the first time since Wednesday night's attack. "No evildoer, no demon in hell or on Earth can close the doors of God's church," Rev. Norvel Goff is reported to have said as he led the service.

Organizers say members of the Cornell University and Ithaca College campus communities, as well as the entire Ithaca and Tompkins County community, are welcome at St. James on Thursday. The vigil is co-sponsored by Cornell United Religious Work and Cornell's Africana Studies and Research Center.

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