These Touching Photos Of Charleston AME Church's Emotional First Mass Since The Shooting Reveal How Strong The Community Remains
On Sunday, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church held its first service since the shooting Wednesday that killed nine people. The Sunday service was packed with community members and government leaders, including Gov. Nikki Haley and her family. The church put aside the growing discussions about gun control and racism in the U.S. to remember the victims who died tragically. Some of the emotional and inspiring moments were caught in photos.
The church's pastor and a state senator, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, was among the nine people who were allegedly killed by 21-year-old Dylann Roof. Roof allegedly told investigators he opened fire in the church to start a race war, according to CNN. The church bells rang out at 10 a.m. to commemorate the nine people Roof killed, according to The Guardian. Reverend Norvel Goff stood in as interim pastor until a successor for Pinckney could be chosen.
His service started off with prayer, songs, and a message of love and healing, but then the music slowed as the nine victims' names were read aloud to the congregation. Goff said the four days since the shooting have been rough, but that "God has sustained us and encouraged us," according to the Guardian. "Let us not grow weary,” he said. People bowed their heads and broke into tears.
Goff said he found inspiration in a Biblical verse from Isaiah: "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper," according to USA Today. "The doors are open at Emanuel this Sunday, sending a message to every demon in Hell and on Earth that no weapon, no weapon... shall prosper!" Goff's voice boomed and the crowed cheered.
Clarissa Jackson, who lives in Chesapeake, Virginia, but grew up in Charleston, told USA Today she lined up almost two hours before Emanuel's service:
I wanted to come early because I wanted to beat the crowd, take pictures and show some love. I just want to support. I know God doesn't stop and I came to worship with them.
At points in the service Goff joked lightly to provide relief from the emotion. According to USA Today, he promised to keep his remarks short, acknowledging the summer heat, but warned that if he saw people dozing off "I will start with Genesis... and read slowly!" The crowd applauded warmly.
Earlier, the Rev. John Gillison spoke about praying for strength for the victims's families, according to USA Today:
We ask that (God) would guide the families that have been victimized. The devil was trying to take charge but thanks be to God, the devil can't take control of your church. The devil can't take control of your people.
Goff addressed the fact that people were surprised when some of the victims' family members read messages of forgiveness during Roof's bond hearing Friday. He said those people underestimate the strength of the community, according to NBC News:
A lot of folk expected us to do something strange and to break out in a riot. They just don't know us because we are a people of faith, and we believe that when we put our forces and our heads together working for a common good, there is nothing we cannot accomplish together in the name of Jesus.
Images: Getty Images (17)