Amazing grace of people in Charleston: Streets fall silent as church bells ring in memory of fallen

The Charleston church that was the site of a massacre on Wednesday held its first service since the horrific incident today.

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church opened its doors for their weekly 9:30am service as thousands poured out to support the church, most filling the outside parking lot and street as they could not even get into the building.

Just four days ago, nine members of the congregation were shot dead in a racially motivated hate crime at the hands of 21-year-old Dylann Roof.

Services began with the organist playing Amazing Grace followed by What a Friend We Have in Jesus as worshipers filed into the church.

After that, Reverend John Gillison began the service by telling the congregation; ‘The devil entered and the devil tried to take charge. But the devil cannot take control of your people, and the devil cannot take control of your church.’

The church’s bell also tolled nine times in memory of each of the victims.

People began lining up outside well before 8:00am for the chance to go in and worship at the historic church.

Among the victims killed on Wednesday was Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who was remembered with a black cloth that was placed over his chair.

‘We are reminded this morning of the freshness of death. It comes like a thief in the night,’ said Reverend Goff, the presiding elder at the church, in his remarks.

‘Many of our hearts are still broken. Many of us are still shedding tears. But we must take our burdens to the Lord and leave them there.’

He then added; ‘As we try to make sense of nonsense, pray for our children. We pray that God will give us the clarity of thought to share with them what God has shared with us.’

Some in the audience were seen clapping, others standing and smiling while many openly wept.

Later, during his sermon, Reverend Goff spoke about why all the families of the victims wished forgiveness upon Rood when they attended his bond hearing.

He then said of the families of the victims; ‘If you know our daddy, you know how his children would act.’

As for the victims, and what their deaths mean moving forward, Reverend Goff said; ‘The blood of the Emanuel 9 requires us to stay on the battlefield until there is no more fighting to be fought.’

He would later add; ‘The only way for evil to triumph is for good people to sit down and do nothing.’

On Wednesday, Roof sat among a Bible study group and opened fire after saying that he targeted them because they were black.

In addition to Rev. Pinckney, who was also a state senator, the victims included; DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Myrah Thompson, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Daniel Simmons and Cynthia Hurd.

For the family of Hurd, Sunday’s service was especially poignant.

The longtime librarian, would have been celebrating her 55th birthday and was planning a trip to Virginia with her siblings.

‘Sunday will not be a sad day for me; it will be a celebration for me. It will be a celebration for our family because our faith is being tested,’ Hurd’s younger brother Malcolm Graham said Friday.

‘She was in the company of God trying to help somebody out. She was where she needed to be.’

Felicia Breeland, an 81-year-old lifelong Emanuel member, said she sang in the choir with Jackson, 87, who was fatally shot Wednesday.

‘It’s going to be sad. She sits right on the front row, too,’ Breeland said.

‘She had a very soft soprano voice. It was beautiful.’

Events to show solidarity are planned throughout the city and beyond, including the synchronized ringing of church bells at 10am.

‘The doors of the church are open. No evildoer, no demon in hell or on Earth can close the doors of God’s church.,’ said Reverend Goff.

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