Relaymedia

Bible Study Resumes at Charleston AME Church One Week After Massacre: 'The Message is Love, Even for Your Enemies'

( [email protected] ) Jun 25, 2015 04:34 PM EDT
One week after a racially-motivated attack at Charleston's Mother Emanuel AME Church left nine worshipers dead, almost 200 people gathered in the same basement room where the massacre took place to resume the weekly Bible study.
Parishioners sing at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church four days after a mass shooting that left nine people dead. AP Photo

One week after a racially-motivated attack at Charleston's Mother Emanuel AME Church left nine worshipers dead, almost 200 people gathered in the same basement room where the massacre took place to resume the weekly Bible study.

"This territory belongs to God," Interim Pastor Norvel Goff Sr. told the crowd gathered in the basement after a string trio played religious hymns, including "Be Thou My Vision," The New York Daily News reports.  

"Last week," Goff recalled, "dark powers came over Mother Emanuel. But, that's alright. God in his infinite wisdom said 'that's alright. I've got the nine.'"

During the service, titled "The Power of Love," Rev. Goff also urged the audience to not allow hate in their heart, "not because we are weak, but because we are strong."

"What kind of love is it that God has for us?" he asked the crowd. They called back: "Unconditional!"

The families of the victims and the Emanuel AME community have extended this kind of love to 21-year-old Dylann Roof, who sat through the class for an hour with worshipers before declaring he was there "to kill black people" and opening fire.

Roof, who has admitted to killing his victims in an attempt to start a "race war," has been charged with nine counts of murder. Additionally, the Department of Justice is likely to pursue federal hate crime charges against him, law enforcement officials told CNN.

Myra Thompson, the sister of shooting victim Marjorie McIver, was among those who publicly forgave Roof for his heinous crime despite his lack of remorse.

"It behooves us to forgive others," she told the Post and Courier. "That message of love, even for your enemies, even for those who use you, who despise you. That's a powerful message."

Comforting the mourners, Rev. Goff promised worshipers on Wednesday, "This is not the end. We will see our loved ones again." He reminded attendees that while many hearts are broken, God has the power to heal even the deepest of wounds.

"God is with us, with you and God gives us the ability to let it go," he added, referring to the hatred displayed last week, "We are better than that." 

Meanwhile, USA Today reports that on Thursday, two of the victims were buried; the Rev. Sharonda Singleton and Ethel Lee Lance.

The church's pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, will be buried Friday. His funeral will be held at the College of Charleston, with President Obama offering the eulogy and first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in attendance.

A day before, thousands of mourners turned out in Columbia to view Pinckney's body, which lay in state in the Statehouse Rotunda.

The historic "Mother Emanuel" church also resumed services last Sunday, with Rev. Goff emphasizing that "no weapon formed against us shall prosper."

"A lot of folks expected us to do something strange and to break out in a riot. Well, they just don't know us," he said. "We are a people of faith."

The new interim leader continued, "We have shown the world how we as a group of people can come together and pray and work out things that need to be worked out."

Tags : Charleston, charleston shooting, Dylann Roof, Charleston church, Bible Study Resumes at Charleston AME Church, Rev. Clementa Pinckney Funeral