Songs, prayer accompany 1st service at church since shooting
CHARLESTON, South Carolina (AP):
The congregation at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal swayed and sang and welcomed the world into their sanctuary yesterday, holding the first worship service since a gunman opened fire during a bible study and killed nine church members.
Messages of love, recovery and healing were interspersed throughout the service, which was marked by fervent singing and shouting, so much so that many congregants waved small fans in front of their faces.
For added security, police officers stood watch over the worshippers at the church known as 'Mother Emanuel' because it is one of the oldest black congregations in the South.
"It has been tough, it's been rough, some of us have been downright angry, but through it all God has sustained us and has encouraged us. Let us not grow weary in well-doing," said the Rev Norvel Goff, a presiding elder of the 7th District AME Church in South Carolina.
Goff was appointed to lead the historic Charleston church after Emanuel's senior pastor, the Rev Clementa Pinckney, was shot and killed. A black sheet was draped over his usual chair, which sat empty yesterday. At least one parishioner kneeled down in front of it and prayed.
Pinckney was also a state senator and married father of two children. Goff acknowledged Father's Day and reminded people that God was the ultimate father of these nine families.
"The blood of the 'Mother Emmanuel 9' requires us to work until not only justice in this case, but for those who are still living in the margin of life, those who are less fortunate than ourselves," he said.
Yesterday marked the first service at Emanuel since Dylann Roof, 21, sat among a bible study group for about an hour last Wednesday night before opening fire after saying that he targeted them because they were black, authorities said.
As Emanuel's congregation belted out a gospel hymn, church bells rang throughout downtown in this 'Holy City' - which garnered the nickname because of the numerous churches there.
The family Trayvon Martin yesterday said "It is very unfortunate that an individual with such a vile mind and clear criminal intent would dare seek to undermine our mission of peace, in an attempt to destroy the legacy of our son."
Martin, an unarmed black teenager who was shot by neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was acquitted of murder.