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Charleston church hosts first service following gun massacre

Four days after it welcomed a young stranger who sat for prayer and then opened fire, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, held its first worship service.

"Some folks might need some more time in order to walk in," said the Rev Norvel Goff, who was appointed to lead the historic black Charleston church after senior pastor Clementa Pinckney was shot dead along with eight others during a Bible study group.

"But for those of us who are here this morning, because the doors of Mother Emanuel are open on this Sunday, it sends a message to every demon in hell and on Earth."

The church's air conditioning did little to fight the heat of extra bodies in the sanctuary.

Police stood watch over the worshippers at one of the oldest black congregations in the south. Some congregation members stood to applaud when Rev Goff thanked law enforcement officers for their response to the shooting, which again called up deep questions about race, and guns, in America.

A 21-year-old white suspect, Dylann Roof, faces murder charges. A black sheet was draped over Rev Pinckney's usual chair, which sat empty. At least one parishioner kneeled in front of it and prayed.


Later, thousands of people gathered on the Arthur Ravenel Bridge to join hands in solidarity. The bridge is named after a former state lawmaker and supporter of the Confederate flag carried by pro-slavery for-ces in the American Civil War.