The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church reopened Sunday to conduct its first worship service since the deadly night of Wednesday when during a Bible study, a white gunman opened fire at the church members and killed nine people.
The accused, Dylann Roof, of Lexington, South Carolina, was attending the Bible study. He sat there for one hour before standing up, making racially charged comments and unleashing a reign of terror on the members of the Mother Emanuel, one of the oldest black churches in the South.
According to Yahoo News, Rev. Norvel Goff, a presiding elder of the 7th District AME Church in South Carolina, said, “I was so pleased when authorities told us you can go back into ‘Mother Emanuel’ to worship.
“Some folks might need some more time in order to walk in. But for those of us who are here this morning… because the doors of Mother Emanuel are open on this Sunday, it sends a message to every demon in hell and on earth.”
Goff was appointed as the new leader of the church after its previous senior pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was shot dead in the incident. Pinckney also served as a state senator and was a father of two.
Goff said, “The only way evil can triumph is for good folks to sit down and do nothing.”
During the service, one parishioner knelt in front of Pinckney’s chair – which was empty and draped with a black sheet – and prayed.
Hundreds of people attended the service on Sunday morning, amid tight security presence consisting of several Charleston deputies guarding the doors.
According to BBC, Rev. John Gillison told the mass of people gathered at the service, “There they were in the house of the Lord, studying your word, praying with one another.
“But the devil also entered. And the devil was trying to take charge… But the devil cannot take control of your people. And the devil cannot take control of your church.”
He further added that those attending the service were seeking to reunite with the members the church had lost on Wednesday. “We ask that (God) would guide the families that have been victimized,” he said. “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.”
Several people who could not gain entrance inside the church held their prayers and paid tribute to the victims from the outside.
South Carolina governor Nikki Haley was in attendance of the service along with her family.
Goff, reciting a Biblical verse from Isaiah, “No weapon that is formed against three shall prosper,” paid tribute to the families of the victims of the shooting incident.
“The doors are open at Emanual this Sunday, sending a message to every demon in Hell and on Earth that no weapon, no weapon … shall prosper!” Goff said.
Clarissa Jackson, 51, had been standing in the queue for two hours before the Sunday service began. According to USA Today, she said, “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.”
An online post possibly by Roof – who admitted to opening fire in the church and killing nine worshipers – which explains his motive behind the attack is being investigated by the police. As reported by one of the law enforcement officials, Roof wanted to instigate a race war with the incident.
Roof appeared at a bond hearing on Friday. Families of the victims said that they forgave him.
Goff said during the Sunday service, “I’m reminded of some news media persons that wondered why the nine families all spoke of forgiveness and didn’t have malice in their heart. It’s that the nine families got it.”
A unity chain was held Sunday night on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.
“When something this horrendous happens this close to home, you are compelled to do something,” event coordinator Dorsey Fairbairn posted on Facebook.
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