Powerful Speeches Marked Charleston AMA Church's First Mass Since The Devastating Shooting


Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church held its first service Sunday following the devastating shooting that left nine parishioners dead after 21-year-old Dylann Roof allegedly opened fire during a Wednesday night Bible study. Powerful statements from the Charleston church service came from interim Pastor Dr. Norvel Goff, who led an overflowing congregation Sunday morning. Among the victims of the shooting was the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who had previously been leading the church. Pinckney's empty chair was draped in black cloth and many, including Goff, knelt and prayed in front of the chair.

Goff found comfort in the Bible verse Isaiah 54:17, which states that "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper." It is that such faith, Goff said, that united and strengthened the church in the face of tragedy. Said Goff:

Parishioners from far and wide packed the church, including South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum. The main chapel was filled with worshipers in addition to an overflow area that had been set up to accommodate the many additional people paying their respects. The overflow area as well as the chapel hit capacity. At 10 a.m, church bells rang out from churches across Charleston to honor the nine victims and as a sign of solidarity with Emmanuel AME.

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Reverend John Gillison echoed Goff's statements, delivering an opening prayer asking for strength for the families of the victims and calling on the importance of faith in combating such tragedy in a place of worship.

Throughout the service, songs of worship were sung and tears were shed. Goff praised Charleston law enforcement for their swift action and the congregation for their forgiveness and mercy on Roof. Still, Goff said, the fight for justice was not over:

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