By Robert Macpherson, (AFP).
The historic black South Carolina church where a white gunman murdered nine African Americans held its first service since the massacre, an emotional gathering celebrating the lives of those slain.
Several hundred congregants, some tearful, packed the Emanuel African American Episcopal Church for a service led by visiting clergy because the congregation’s pastor was among those killed by a suspected young white supremacist.
The service offered still-grieving Charleston — in another era, the American capital of the transatlantic slave trade — a chance to mark what many argued was its triumph in thwarting the shooter’s reported aim to foment racial hatred.
Celebrants at Emanuel church said the accused gunman, Dylann Roof, 21, from a rural town near the state capital Columbia, had failed miserably in his quest to break their spirit of love and faith.
“There they were in the house of the Lord, studying your word, praying with one another,” said visiting minister John Gillison from the pulpit.
“But the Devil also entered. And the Devil was trying to take charge,” he said.
“Thanks be to God, hallelujah, that the Devil cannot take control of your people. And the Devil cannot take control of your church.”