A few years back, members of Emanuel AME Church gathered along Rutledge Avenue to mark the renovation of their vacant parsonage, which had been rescued from a state of crumbling disrepair.
People marveled at its strong new bones, its fresh coat of paint and the prospect of rental income that could help the mother church thrive. It was a time for celebration. For everyone, that is, except Myra Thompson.
“For her it was, ‘Mission accomplished, let’s get on to the next one,’ ” her good friend City Councilman William Dudley Gregorie recalled. “But that was Myra.”
A devout woman with a clear sense of purpose, Thompson had been the perfect choice to lead the church’s property committee. She and her pastor, Clementa Pinckney, shared a passion for restoring and preserving Emanuel’s historic buildings, helping a church that had survived fire, an earthquake and racial strife prosper into the future. They worked to strengthen faith, one brick and board at a time.
Thompson spent long hours on the projects, often chatting into the night about the work with her friend Gregorie, a fellow trustee on the committee. They didn’t always agree, but he never doubted her devotion. With three projects down, they were now setting their sights on the church sanctuary.
The 59-year-old mother and pastor’s wife decided more than a year ago to heed an even deeper calling within the church — to join the ministry. As she had with the property committee, she put her full effort into the pursuit.
“She was just a very energized, serving-God type of person,” Gregorie said.
Thompson received her license to the ministry Wednesday night. A short time later she was dead, gunned down by a young man who she and her friends had welcomed into their house of faith.