Hundreds of people amassed at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, mere days after the tragic shooting, took the lives of nine members of the church.
In an aim to thwart the shooters mission of generating hatred within the community, the service offered a chance for the still-grieving members of the church to reconnect and create triumph from tragedy.
“We are reminded this morning about the freshness of death that comes like a thief in the night,” the Reverend Norvel Goff told the congregation.
Celebrants at the church, who have maintained a vigil since the shootings, were quick to announce, that the gunman had failed in his attempt to destroy hopes of faith and love within their congregation.
“There they were in the house of the Lord, studying your word, praying with one another,” Rev Goff said of the victims.
“But the devil also entered. And the devil was trying to take charge. Thanks be to God, Hallelujah that the devil cannot take control of your people. And the devil cannot take control of your church.”
Rev Goff was standing in for Clementa Pinckney, 41, senior pastor at Emanuel and a Democratic member of the senate who was also killed in the massacre.
Outside the church, a flood of flowers, well-wishes, balloons and teddy bears covered the sidewalk, with hundreds more lining up to join in the congregation and public mourning on the streets.
City officials, church goers and religious leaders all spoke of the importance of such a public face of strength and unity in wake of the recent atrocities.
The latest shooting in the US highlights the ever-present and divisive issues of race relations and gun crime that have so marred America’s history. That these atrocities are still occurring at a rate which shows no signs of slowing down, is a telling picture of the desperate state of race relations within the United States.