By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
Four days after Dylann Storm Roof, 21, sat almost an hour, during a prayer meeting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and then shot nine of the participants dead, the congregation gathered the following Sunday to worship and express grief, faith and gratitude.
“The doors of the church are open”
Since the tragic shooting on the evening of June 17, the Historic Church has been a crime scene. The shooting took place in its basement.
But above in the main sanctuary, hundreds of regular worshipers, visitors, public officials and the media filled the pews of the church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina.
“The doors of the church are open,” declared the Rev. Norvel Goff during prayers. Goof replaced the church’s senior pastor Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was among the nine victims shot to death by Roof.
“No evildoer, no demon in hell or on earth can close the doors of God’s church,” Goff proclaimed.
The worshipers sang hymns, prayed and remembered the nine church members shot to death, including Rev. Pinckney. His seat behind the podium was shrouded in black cloth and uniformed police officers were present in the side aisles.
“It’s by faith that we are standing here and sitting here,” Goff said. “It has been tough. It has been rough. Some of us have been downright angry. But through it all, God has sustained us.”
“Lots of folks expected us to do something strange and break out in a riot. Well, they just don’t know us,” Goff said as the congregation stood and cheered.
‘We’re going to pursue justice’
“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.”
“Take it down”
The worship service was broadcast live by local and national Cable News outlets Sunday starting around 10 a.m., while church bells across the city began to ring in solidarity with Emanuel’s congregation.
Later that evening, a human chain of unity was staged on the 13,200-foot Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge where thousands held hands across the Cooper River.
The day before, hundreds, in silence, participated in a Black Lives Matter march that began at Emmanuel AME and ended with a rally outside the historic building housing Daughters of the Confederacy.
A larger group of marchers on Saturday in Columbia, the state capital, organized a “take it down” rally calling for the state to stop flying the Confederate over the capital building.
The U.S. flag and the South Carolina state banner flew at half mast to honor the Emanuel 9 over the weekend. But the flag of the Confederate States of America flew at full mast. Only a resolution of the state General Assembly can order the flag to be lowered for any reason.
Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley on Sunday called for the flag, to be removed and sent “into a museum,” calling it an “affirmation” of hatred.
“It sends, at best, mixed messages and, at worst, for hateful people like [accused shooter Dylann] Roof, it’s an affirmation because they have appropriated something and used it as a symbol of hatred. So I think that it needs to go into a museum.”
In 2000 an effort to stop flying the confederate banner over the state capital was defeated in the State Legislature.
Democratic and Republican candidates running for the White House in 2016 responded in varying ways for the flag’s removal. The GOP candidate in 2012, Mitt Romney, was the first national poll to speak out for the flag’s removal.
Jeb Bush said his view on the subject is clear, and, as governor of Florida, he had the flag moved from the state capital to a museum.
On Monday (June 22) Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus, announced official support for the flag’s removal. In a statement, he wrote, “This flag has become too divisive and too hurtful for too many of our fellow Americans. For South Carolina, taking down this Confederate flag is a step in mending those divisions. Our future must be better than our past.”
Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton said removing the flag is the right thing.