MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The chilling accounts from the 2015 Charleston church massacre will stop you in your tracks.
“He said have I shot you yet,” survivor Polly Sheppard remembered. “I said no. He said, ‘I’m going to leave you here to tell the story.’”
That story will be told in Montgomery next week and across the nation in June, when the film, “Emanuel,” is released in theaters.
The documentary, produced by NBA star Steph Curry and Viola Davis, tells the story of the deadly mass shooting where nine people were gunned down at a Bible study at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church. It’s set to be released on the fourth anniversary of the shooting.
The film’s national acclaim is putting an upcoming conference in Montgomery on the map.
“It will show how powerful forgiveness is when someone takes something from you so valuable - a loved one,” said Dan Burgess, a minister at Landmark Church.
Burgess is part of the team bringing Polly Sheppard and Reverend Anthony Thompson to Montgomery for the conference, “Forgiveness is a Choice,” titled after their public message of forgiveness to Dylan Roof during his first court appearance.
“The opportunity is here right now for our society to recognize how we treat each other matters, and that God has created us for a time such as this,” Burgess stated.
Sheppard and Thompson will explain their path to forgiveness and the importance of racial reconciliation in historic cities like Montgomery, that often share the divide of social and economic inequality.
“The ground work is being laid for people to really wake up and realize that there is an action item for everyone,” he explained. “Everyone has a next step, they can be the bridge. We believe love demands a conversation, to come to the table is something that’s required of all of us.”
Burgess and the team at Landmark Church, who is hosting the city-wide event, believes real change in Montgomery starts with personal healing and new relationships that take others outside of their comfort zone.
The conference will define ways to start that conversation.
“Someone shared with me that they fear that so many people like them will remain in their bubble and their pocket if they aren’t challenged,” Burgess explained. “That may be the biggest question on their heart and their mind: what in the world can I do to make a difference? Come to this event and see what God calls you to do.”
“Forgiveness is a Choice” will be hosted at Landmark Church on May 6 at 6:30 p.m. The event is free of charge.
The movie Emanuel will be in theaters in Montgomery on June 17 and 19. You can purchase tickets here.