Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church reopens with prayer, praise and a call for change

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The Rev. Norvel Goff prays at the empty seat of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., on June 21, 2015. The church held its first service since a mass shooting left nine people dead during a Bible study. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/David Goldman/Pool
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CHARLESTON-AME, originally transmitted on June 22, 2015.

The Rev. Norvel Goff prays at the empty seat of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., on June 21, 2015. The church held its first service since a mass shooting left nine people dead during a Bible study. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/David Goldman/Pool *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CHARLESTON-AME, originally transmitted on June 22, 2015.

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"We still believe that prayer changes things. Can I get a witness?" the Rev. Norvel Goff said. The congregated responded with a rousing "Yes."

  • Ben in Oakland

    In the company of God, eh? he must have been in the restroom when the shooting began.

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  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Although I am Catholic I am proud of the Christian people of this church. Their love for others and their expressions of forgiveness should be an inspiration to all.

  • Exactly.

    God likes to watch horrific shootings happen.
    Or, he doesn’t exist at all (best answer).

    Most racists are firm believers in God and in their ‘god given’ superiority over other races, however most nonbelievers show a stronger tolerance for differences and a deeper level of acceptance (Pew Research).

    These heartbroken people in Charleston are acting with incredible humanitarianism and decency in the face of depraved bigotry.

  • Susan

    “These heartbroken people in Charleston are acting with incredible humanitarianism and decency in the face of depraved bigotry.”

    Max, where does their humanitarianism and decency come from? It comes from their religion.

  • Doc Anthony

    Hmm. Max, I think Susan just pinned you there.

  • larry

    Yet so many people are religious and inhumane and bigoted as well. They attribute their religion to that too. Funny how it can be both things. Especially since they would all consider themselves devout Christians.

    Humanitarianism and decency comes from within. As is malice and bigotry. Religion is just what they use to express it. Anyone who claims they get their morals from religion do not really understand either. Its like saying a great painting is attributed to the brush.

  • Doc Anthony

    Let’s see now. The younger brother of murdered parishioner Cynthia Hurd says out loud, “She was in the company of God trying to help somebody out.”

    But all you atheists and agnostics can do in response to that statement, is to offer snarky putdowns about the God he’s referring to? Is THAT how you intend to honor Hurd’s memory? Sheesh.

    Looks like Mr. Dylann Hoff ain’t the only hater around here. Hoff hated the parishioners; you hate the parishioners’ God. Something wrong in both cases.

  • Doc Anthony

    Typo correction: “Roof”, not “Hoff.” “Mr. Dylann Roof ain’t the only hater around here.”

  • Susan

    Humanitarianism and decency may come from inside, but sometimes it needs a little help and a push and for many people that comes from religion.

  • dmj76

    Dear Doc Anthony

    Many unbelievers do not hate religion or religious people. They are focused on other topics. Religion just does not show up on the radar. They are not necessarily less spiritual, just not concerned with supernatural topics.

  • What, exactly, did their prayers change? Were the nine victims resurrected and it just didn’t make the news? Did they somehow stop another massacre that was going to happen this afternoon?

  • ronald

    How it gladdens my heart to know that Nikki Haley forgives Mr. Roof and is using the office of Governess to call for all the citizens of South Carolina to forgive him as well! Forgiveness is the Christian way!

    I pray to God that all the people of South Carolina and the rest of the nation obey Nikki’s call and turn away from divisiveness! Forgive those who trespass against us! Forgive Dylann Storm Roof!

  • Be Brave

    Max,

    The rise of godlessness in society, and we see murderous hatred and mental illness, vice and violence of the secularized populace growing rapidly hand in hand. Secularism’s Dylann Roof, cared nothing for the milieu of a Church and the rights of Christians just like an obedient child of the new atheism movement.

    Actions speak to the heart. Atheists speak to actions.

    Incredible that you (and of course Larry and Ben) would spew your anti-Christian rant attached to an article about Charleston’s AME Church. This should be looked at as a possible hate crime.

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  • Be Brave

    Roof can be forgiven, but he still needs to be executed or sentenced to life in prison for his first degree murders.

    He has confessed to the crimes.

  • Susan

    The AME Churches have been in the forefront of the civil rights movement for years. They have not just prayed. They have acted too even at great danger to themselves. The Pastor of the church who was murdered was a state senator as well as a minister.

    Their prayers offer them comfort and consolation and they fortify them for the struggles to come. They may just help prevent more massacres in the future, but it takes time and patience.

  • Be Brave

    Joseph,

    What did their prayers change?

    Answer that by looking at what Roof did.

    If you atheists could study history without guile in your psyche’s, (psyche can also mean soul) you would see that Christians do not seek validation through a puppet master god as you seem to demand. They have found their answers in the empty tomb.

    I’m truly sorry that you are incapable of understanding that. Maybe God will do an incomprehensible miracle in your life and create in you a new heart.

    But since I rely so heavily on rational thought when interacting with an atheist, I won’t hold my breathe waiting for that to happen.

  • Be Brave

    The First Amendment to the US Constitution . . .

    validating the Bible yet again.

    Some choose evil.

    Some choose good.

    It is clear the evil chosen by those that could not restrain their hatred for Christians are continuing to relish the taste of the fruit of evil.

    The Christians at AME Church?

    Regretting the taste and refusing another bite.

  • larry

    So now religion is peer pressure? That is not a very flattering picture of belief.

    You are still trying to stick to a false narrative that morals come from religion even though it clearly makes no sense. Religion a the tool for expressing such things, not its cause.

    The converse of my argument is that there are plenty of humanitarian and moral people who don’t believe as well. Religion didn’t make them so either. Such facts again bolster my point here. Religion is as useful to people what they are willing to impute to it. It doesn’t make people moral or immoral, or inspire humanitarianism or bigotry. It is a method of expressing those things. A shorthand.

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  • Larry

    “The First Amendment to the US Constitution . . .validating the Bible yet again”

    More evidence you don’t really understand either of those works. Like many other things you do not understand but feel the need to spout off about.

    Its amazing how hell bent you are on blaming atheists and “secularists” for something they had nothing to do with. Ironically those who usually extol racism and “Southern Culture” like to consider themselves good Bible believing Christians. But such unpleasant connections are to be avoided from people who find reality to be too disturbing for their personal beliefs. So I understand why you would do what you do. Its just childish and not worth the effort of taking seriously.

  • Susan

    Max, in case you haven’t noticed, I don’t believe in Jesus or the “New Testament.”

    Why are atheists even more literalist than fundamentalists? All non-Orthodox branches of Judaism marry Gay and Lesbian couples and ordain Gay and Lesbians as rabbis and cantors. Many verses in the Tanach, Hebrew Bible have troubled rabbis and sages over the centuries. They have been reinterpreted over the centuries and the process continues.

  • Susan

    “Believing that God is on your side is exactly what creates mass murder and massacres.”

    I’m sorry to say that human beings have a propensity to divide the world into us and them and “us” is better than “them.” This will happen with or without religion. Did you ever hear about the teacher who wanted to teach their class about the Holocaust. The teacher singled out blue-eyed children and treated them differently. The whole class eventually bought into it and there was no religion involved.

  • @Susan:

    “Why are atheists even more literalist than fundamentalists?”

    Snap out of it!

    Atheists confront literalist claims! That’s why!
    Religious people NEVER present these Gods or their commands as metaphors!

    LITERAL genitals are LITERALLY mutilated everyday because of these claims!
    LITERAL gays are LITERALLY slaughtered everyday!
    LITERAL laws are enacted to prevent ACTUAL women from owning their own bodies because of LITERAL CLAIMS ABOUT A LITERAL GOD!

    When religious people stop taking this nonsense literally I’ll be glad to stop being literal!

    “Kill homosexuals” – Leviticus 20:13

    “The only cure for homosexuals is that they be put to death” – Pastor Robbie Galaty, Tennessee megachurch, Sept. 2014

    Want to believe god is a metaphor!? Fine! I’ll leave you alone.
    But if you tell me God commands LITERAL ACTIONS I must rain on that parade!!!!!!

  • You proved that your example was religious when you said “holocaust”.

  • Susan

    Max, you insist on taking literally passages from the Tanach that even the most Ultra-Orthodox Jew doesn’t take literally anymore.

    The teacher was teaching about hating someone who is different for whatever reason.