Rev. Norvel Goff, filling in for slain pastor Rev. Clementa Pinckney, led the congregation in prayer
Thousands of mourners, worshippers and activists packed the pews yesterday morning at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., four days after nine people were fatally shot during bible study by 21-year-old terrorist Dylann Roof.
Rev. Norvel Goff, who was appointed in the interim to lead Mother Emanuel, remembered the victims and commended the community for remaining peaceful post-tragedy. "A lot of people expected us to do something strange and to break out in a riot," he said during his sermon, which was also live-streamed online. "Well, they just don't know us. We are people of faith."
More than 1,000 people were in attendance, including South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Guards flanked the entrances, and worshippers had to go through security checkpoints before they could enter the sanctuary. Inside the sanctuary doors, however, the tone was of unwavering resilience.
"The blood of the Mother Emanuel 9 requires us to work until not only justice in this case, but for those who are still living in the margin of life, those who are less fortunate than ourselves, that we stay on the battlefield until there is no more fight to be fought," Goff said.
Roof was arrested in North Carolina on Thursday, hours after the shooting. He confessed to the murders, telling one of the investigators that he wanted to start a race war. He is currently being held on $1 million bail.