Ethel Lance was practically always at her church, members said. She was a long-time sexton there, spending weekdays cleaning the grounds and nights at classes, with social clubs or in worship or Bible study. She worked as an usher during Sunday services.
“We’re holding on and holding together and supporting each other the best way that we know how right now,” said Tim Brown, a member of the church who coordinates the college outreach committee.
Lance, who was 70, was a constant presence around “Mother Emanuel,” as members call it.
“A dear and sweet woman who worked very hard at the church,” Brown said.
A former neighbor, Carolyn Swinton, grew up going to Emanuel AME and then joined a different congregation nearby. When she moved to an apartment in Charleston, she found she was two doors down from Lance, until she moved again two months ago.
This spring, they saw each other at Emanuel at Swinton’s neice’s wedding, she said. They hugged and chatted in the parking lot .
“You moved,” Lance told her. “I miss you.”