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.
The doors of the church open at Mother Emanuel @TODAYshow @NBCNews @meetthepress pic.twitter.com/5wwJAuRhdK — Ron Allen (@RonAllenNBC) June 21, 2015
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.
It has been tough. It has been rough. But through it all, God has sustained us and has encouraged us. Let us not grow weary in well doing… We have some difficult days ahead, but the only way evil can triumph is for good folk to sit down and do nothing.
The loudest applause came after Goff thanked the police. Goff stated,
A lot of folks expected us to do something strange and breakout in a riot. Well, they just don't know us. We are people of faith.
He also declared the shooter's intention to start a "race war" will undoubtedly go unfulfilled, saying,
Because the doors are open on this Sunday it sends a message to every demon in hell and on Earth that no weapon, no weapon shall prosper. Some wanted the divide between black and white and brown, [but] no weapon formed against us shall prosper.
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:
Everyone holding hands to end the Sunday service at #MotherEmanuel #CharlestonShooting #chsnews pic.twitter.com/A9H4nckYyR — Melissa Boughton (@mboughtonPC) June 21, 2015
SC Pastor: Service warns "every demon in Hell and on Earth that no weapon... shall prosper!" http://t.co/ejOfcmuoef pic.twitter.com/CLhUZUGbGR — John Bacon (@jmbacon) June 21, 2015
Resilience personified. Not even taking a Sunday off, Emanuel AME members return to church this morning. pic.twitter.com/vhh37s7s37 — Shaun King (@ShaunKing) June 21, 2015
Dispatch from #Charleston: How Emanuel AME spent Sunday after the massacre http://t.co/a3KtHQ8uyk — Christianity Today (@CTmagazine) June 22, 2015
The #Charleston memorial outside Emanuel AME continues to grow. pic.twitter.com/Bhnnad5wYG — Kristen Hampton WBTV (@KHamptonWBTV) June 22, 2015