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Seattle A.M.E. Pastor: ‘Terrorism Is Not Foreign To Our Vocabulary’

The first call Rev. Carey G. Anderson received following the mass shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston last week came from Seattle’s police chief.

“Chief O’Toole called me to express her condolence and concern and to let me know, and the black church at large, that SPD is standing available in any way and any capacity,” said Anderson, the pastor at the First A.M.E. Church in Seattle. 

The church is a pillar of the African-American community here.

Anderson was en route to Fairbanks, Alaska, to work with an A.M.E. church there when Chief Kathleen O’Toole called. It was Wednesday night, and nine people had just been killed at a Bible study at the South Carolina church. Authorities believe the attack by 21-year-old Dylann Roof was racially motivated.

Anderson arrived in Alaska at 2 a.m. and immediately booked a flight back to Seattle. As he waited to return home, his team and office planned the format for the sermon he would give at three services on Sunday.

"What is important for the Christian and the faith believer to understand is we don't stick our head in the sand,” Anderson told KUOW’s Marcie Sillman. “But we rise up, we speak up, we stand up and we move forward to become the change that we want to see. This is what we proclaim every Sunday." 

Anderson said the attack in Charleston was particularly painful because it took advantage of the church's openness.

"This young man was probably welcomed and embraced and was engaged in the Bible study itself," he said. "It's just a tragedy to see what has happened."

Clementa Pinckney, the lead pastor at Emanuel A.M.E. in Charleston, was among those killed. Anderson, who called Pinckney was a colleague and acquaintance, agreed that what happened on Wednesday could be called terrorism.

“You don’t have to look overseas to see terrorism,” Anderson said. “Terrorism is being hunted down, and arrested, accosted, and being shot just because you’re a black male.”

“Terrorism is not foreign to our vocabulary,” he said.

But Anderson refused to despair. "I've lived long enough, pastored long enough, been a Christian long enough to know that weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning," he said.

Founded in 1886, the church is Seattle's first and oldest African-American congregation. (Photos in the slideshow above are courtesy of The Seattle Times, which covered First A.M.E.'s 125th anniversary celebration in 2011.)