As many celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King Junior across the country, the day meant a little more for one community in Horry County. With a message of love, Friendship Missionary Baptist Church honored victims of racial violence, taking a few special moments to recognize the 9 lives lost in the Charleston church shootings.
The ringing of bells marked the passing of each victim of the Mother Emmanuel AME Church massacre.
"These disciples of Jesus became victims." one revered said during the 36th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration on Monday.
Two people in the Friendship congregation were related to two of the victims in the shootings.
"A little saddened, yes, but I know what has happened as a result of that tragedy has been for the good," Marjorie Coakley McIver said.
Tears welled up into her eyes as she clutched her sister's photo during the ceremony.
"When I connect King's life to the lives of those victims and what they stood for and especially my sister...this is just a really important day and it remind us not to forget," McIver said.
She hopes no one forgets the way the families of those victims responded to the tragedy, with forgiveness.
"What has happened in Charleston, it's really not new," McIver said. "It was close. It hit at a time when tensions were high, and if we had responded any other way than the way we did, then this country might have been in for more turmoil."
Organizers of today's event hope their ceremony will send a message to the world.
"Sometimes the way we respond to situations...that it doesn't have to be a reaction that's going to create more tension, more hurt, more pain, suffering," McIver said.
Instead, they hope it inspires more love.
"You've got to keep moving forward. You've got to keep moving towards the dream," Lawrence Dean said to the people crowded into the pews.
It's a dream that race will not be a notion that sparks violence.
"Dear God...we lift up leadership everywhere, that they may have the heart to unite your people," one reverend prayed with the congregation. "That we may not be divided by race and religion, by creed and belief, but may we come together realizing you've called us to walk hand in hand"
With song and praise, they hope their message is loud and clear.
"I challenge all of us today...may we all be the dream," another revered urged to the audience.
In one more step to remember those 9 victims, the newly elected mayor of Conway, Barbara Blaine-Bellamy, read two proclamations honoring Reverend Clementa Pinckney and Myra Thompson, as well as their families.