The faith community is being asked to support the private premiere showing of "Emanuel," a documentary that explores how faith and forgiveness helped heal a broken community.
Mission Charleston, a nonprofit group of Charleston-area congregations, is asking local churches to help fund the costs for the private premiere set for June 15 at the Charleston Gaillard Center.
The event is an opportunity to offer Christ-like service, said Craig Tuck, who serves as executive director of the Charleston Baptist Association and a volunteer leader on the operational board of Mission Charleston.
"It’s a way for us, as churches, to really wash the feet of the families," he said. "We want to give a gift and serve them to say, 'We are with you.'"
The event, which has been organized in collaboration with Arbella Studios and the city of Charleston, will also honor the victims, survivors, first responders and others connected to the 2015 tragedy where nine parishioners were killed during Bible study.
Mike Wildt, one of the producers for the documentary that has the backing of NBA superstar Stephen Curry and Academy Award-winning actress Viola Davis, said all of the production company's funds for the film have been spent to make the documentary.
While the city of Charleston waived the rental fee for the Gaillard Center for the premiere and reduced equipment fees, other operational expenses include staff to manage audio equipment and clean the facility, marketing materials, and catering. That adds up to almost $52,000, organizers said.
Churches can donate $5,000 for 20 seats or give less as a goodwill offering.
Mission Charleston isn't gaining any funds from the premiere. Any money leftover after the event will be donated to family members impacted by the shooting, Wildt said.
The private showing, closed to the general public, already has 1,500 confirmed guests including Emanuel victims, families, clergy, members from partner churches and others.
In addition to monetary support, churches can help spiritually by praying for healing at a prayer gathering set for 6:30 p.m. June 3 in the Gaillard Center's memorial courtyard.
Meanwhile, during the premiere, Mission Church volunteers will be stationed a block away at Citadel Square Baptist Church, praying for healing for the Emanuel families.
As the fourth anniversary of the shooting approaches, many continue to grapple with painful memories.
Spike Coleman, pastor of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, was one of the responders and was serving as a chaplain with Coastal Christ Chaplaincy the night of the Emanuel shooting. This should be a time when community members listen to each others' stories of the tragic night in supportive and caring ways, he said.
"It’s a time for people to care for one another," he said.
Charleston-area churches have grown closer since the tragedy.
The Charleston Illumination Project and the Mayor’s Clergy Advisory Council have brought faith leaders together in public events to discuss racial reconciliation and police and community relations. 1Charleston serves as a collective of pastors who offer a workshops to help churches make their congregations more diverse.
Several multi-ethnic churches have also been founded, including Philip Pinckney's Radiant Church in North Charleston.
"There are stories of predominately white churches next to black churches and the pastors never knew each other," said Philip Pinckney, lead pastor of Radiant Church in North Charleston. “For the first time now, that’s being challenged as not OK. In some ways, there’s been a tremendous amount of progress.”
But there's still more work to be done. Since the shooting, faith leaders have found themselves at prayer vigils following shootings that have occurred in other houses of worship nationwide. There is still angst among the black communities where schools are underfunded and the areas lack basic resources. Pinckney said justice has to be more than just a conversation.
“Praise God, we’re talking," he said, but "at some point, our information has to produce transformation.”
The 85-minute "Emanuel" documentary is scheduled to released in select theaters nationwide June 17 and 19.