Even though there was a semblance of normalcy in the Emmanuel AME Church as the congregants attended their first service on Sunday, there was no hiding the fact that a tragedy had recently occurred on the very premises and many members of the church who attended this symbolic service showed signs of being overcome by emotion.
The service which followed the shooting of nine worshippers in the church that is in Charleston in the United States of America saw a gun-toting twenty one year old go into the church and shoot the church leader and eight other worshippers four days ago. The case has been condemned worldwide. A further condemnation has had to do with the way the case has been treated by the US authorities who have been accused of handling the young man with kid gloves and has seen the dreaded controversy of racism rear its ugly head.
In opening the service, that immediately follows the massacre, one of the church leaders, Rev. Norvel Goff read from the Bible in 1 Thessalonians 5 verse 17 which reads, “Rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Added Rev. Goff, “This is our house of worship. The doors of the church are open, praise be to God. No evildoer, no demon in hell or on Earth can close the doors of God’s church.” This symbolic service was attended by local political and civic figures which included Gov. Nikki Haley, who took her seat in the front row, Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley and Rep. Maxine Waters who sat in the pews.
If the aim of the service was to brush aside the shooting and make the congregants forget for some time the drastic incident, this may have been difficult, what with the local police maintaining a heavy presence in and around the church where they searched those attempting to gain access to the church building. They did not allow things such as back packs into the church building. In addition, the seat of the late leader of the church, Rev. and state Sen. Clementa Pinckney stood empty in front, covered in a black cloth. A comment by one of the congregants in the church summarized the feeling and the mood in the church on Sunday: “There they were in the house of the Lord studying your word, praying with one another, but the Devil also entered,” an elder said in a prayer Sunday. “And the Devil was trying to take charge. But thanks be to God — hallelujah — that the Devil cannot take control over your people, and the Devil cannot take control of the church.”