THE HEALING BEGINS: Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church Holds First Service Since Shooting

churchThe beginning of the healing process for this community.

Members of a historic black church will return to their sanctuary Sunday and worship, perhaps united like never before, and similar sermons of recovery and healing will reverberate throughout the country.

Sunday morning will mark the first worship service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church since Dylann Roof, 21, sat among a Bible study group and opened fire after saying that he targeted them because they were black, authorities said. Among the nine killed was the church pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was also a state senator.

Events to show solidarity are planned throughout the city and beyond, including the synchronized ringing of church bells at 10 a.m. EDT. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and her family were to attend the service at Emanuel.

Despite grim circumstances the congregation has been faced with, the welcoming spirit Roof exploited before the shooting is still alive, church members said.

Harold Washington, 75, expects the sanctuary to host even more newcomers after one shattered the group’s sense of peace and security.

“We’re gonna have people come by that we’ve never seen before and will probably never see again, and that’s OK,” he said Saturday. “It’s a church of the Lord, you don’t turn nobody down.”

Church leaders will try to address the heavy psychological burdens parishioners bring with them.

“I think just because of what people have gone through emotions are definitely heightened, not just in Charleston but with anyone going to church because it is such a sacred place, it is such a safe place,” Shae Edros, 29, said after a multiracial group of women sang “Amazing Grace” outside the church Saturday afternoon.

“To have something like that completely shattered by such evil – I think it will be in the back of everyone’s heads, really,” Erdos said. Erdos was planning on attending Sunday service in nearby Mount Pleasant.

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