The body of Pastor Clementa Pinckney returns home Thursday evening, where his flock has been preaching love in the face of the hate crime that took his life and those of eight others.
The wake for the late reverend and state senator shot dead teaching a Bible class over a week ago will commence in the house of worship where he was felled – Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
And mourners in Charleston, South Carolina, will begin committing to the ground the remains of the people whom Dylann Roof, 21, killed in a racist shooting spree on June 17.
On Thursday, they say goodbye to Ethel Lance and Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton.
On Wednesday, about 150 worshipers gathered to hear a lesson titled “The Power of Love” in the same basement room Roof drenched with blood. Interim Pastor Norvel Goff Sr. re-consecrated the ground. “This territory belongs to God,” he said.
As he spoke, people shouted back “hallelujah,” “yes sir,” “amen” and “come on.”
But the room was still scarred. Over worshipers’ heads, a ceiling tile was missing, others were brand new replacement. A bullet hole was taped over with a police ID number H-17.
“Bible study will continue,” Goff told the crowd, “but because of what happened, we will never be the same.”
“Last week,” Goff said, “dark powers came over Mother Emanuel,” as the church is lovingly called. “But, that’s alright. God in his infinite wisdom said ‘that’s alright. I’ve got the nine.’ ”
Leaders, including a chorus of conservatives, who in the past have defended the flying of the Confederate battle flag, have supported the call to have it removed from its site near South Carolina’s State House in Columbia.
Roof revered the flag as a symbol of white supremacy, and photos surfaced of him holding it, alongside another image of him burning an American flag. Many consider the Confederate battle flag a racist symbol.
Politicians in other states have taken swift and uncomplicated action to banish it.
On Wednesday, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley directed that four Confederate flags be taken down permanently from a Confederate memorial at the state capitol. The Mississippi state flag, which contains the battle flag as a prominent element, was taken down from Boise City Hall at the Mayor’s request.
The National Park Service announced that it’s discontinuing items bearing the flag in its souvenir shops. Walmart, eBay and Amazon have announced they would stop selling it, and an array of other corporate giants have supported its removal.