CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - As Mother Emanuel AME Church held its first service since a deadly shooting claimed nine of its members, churches across the Lowcountry united in spirit in the wake of the tragedy.
"It has been tough. It's been rough. Some of us have been downright angry," Rev. Norvel Goff, the interim pastor of Mother Emanuel AME Church, said early in his message. "But through it all, God has sustained us and encouraged us."
"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 to make our community and our state a better place," Goff said.
At Marion Square, worshipers united for a prayer service punctuated at 10 a.m. by the ringing of church bells in unison across the Holy City. Crowds gathered outside Emanuel AME Church, which was packed to capacity by members and guests.
Goff thanked Charleston citizens and visitors for their shows of support, from flowers to messages to emails and various acts of kindness since Wednesday night's shooting. He also recognized Gov. Nikki Haley and Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and thanked law enforcement for their handling of the case and the quick arrest of the suspect.
"A lot of folk expected us to do something strange and break out in a riot," he said. "Well, they just don't know us. We are a people of faith. We believe that when we put our forces and our heads together, working for a common good, there is nothing we can't accomplish together in the name of Jesus."
Speaking from the first seven verses of Psalm 46, which begins, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble," Goff told the congregation, "I want to suggest and recommend to you this morning, that you find a problem or situation too hard for you, it's just right for God."
Goff said some of us are still trying to seek answers to what happened on Wednesday night.
"Well, I've been there, done that, spent the night," he said. "And I've decided to turn it over to Jesus."
Crowds began gathering hours ahead of the scheduled start time of the church service at Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston Sunday morning.