The Charleston church where nine people were killed last week opened back up for service on Sunday, attracting thousands of worshippers to mourn the tragedy and celebrate life.
NBC News reports the bells of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, or Mother Emanuel, rang at 10 am EST, along with those of approximately 100 more churches across the US in an act of unity.
This was the first service to take place at the church since six women and three men were shot dead in its basement last Wednesday.
Police officers surrounded the pews throughout the two-hour service, and guests were not permitted to bring water bottles, bags or cameras -- unless they were members of the media.
Attendees included South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Senator Tim Scott and Charleston Mayor Joseph Patrick Riley Jr.
Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, known for his conservative views, even attended the service and reportedly sat next to DeRay McKesson, a black and gay man.
Reverend Norvel Goff Sr. delivered a powerful sermon revolving around Psalm 46.
The loudest applause came after Goff thanked the police. Goff stated,
He also declared the shooter's intention to start a "race war" will undoubtedly go unfulfilled, saying,
In the comfort of the reverend's booming voice, worshippers were, at least temporarily, rid of one of the most damaging outcomes of any mass murder: fear.
Here are some photos from the service at Emanuel AME:
Citations: Defiant Show of Unity in Charleston Church That Lost 9 to Racist Violence (The New York Times ), Church Reopens For Healing Service (NBC News)