Peace, not rioting at Charleston church

by Vanessa Rodriguez, |
As interim pastor following the death of Rev. Clementa Pinckney during Wednesday's mass shooting, Rev. Norvel Goff Sr. asserted that the church was defying the gunman's desire to pit the church against society and each other. | YouTube/SCREEN CAPTURE

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Christian Examiner) -- The massacre of nine churchgoers Wednesday night at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was intended to start a race war. Instead, the congregation gathered for Sunday services joined by a racially diverse faith community.

"A lot of folk expected us to do something strange and break out in a riot," Rev. Norvel Goff, Sr, an elder at 7th District AME Church in South Carolina said delivering Emanuel's Sunday's sermon. Goff will serve as interim pastor of Emanuel until a successor is found for the late Senior Pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was killed in the shooting.

"They just don't know us because we are a people of faith, and we believe that when we put our forces and our heads together, working for a common good, there is nothing we cannot accomplish together in the name of Jesus," Goff continued as the room stood to applaud.

Pointing to God as comforter of the victims' families, Goff asserted that the church's audacious decision to open four days after the mass shooting was a "message to the demons in Hell."

"No evildoer, no demon in hell or on Earth can close the doors of God's church," Goff proclaimed and emphasized that the nine families' capacity to forgive was a reflection of their heavenly Father.

"On this Father's Day you ought to know the nine families' daddy," he said. "If you knew the nine families' daddy, you would know how the children are behaving. If you knew our daddy you would know that he said weeping endures by night, but joy comes in the morning."

Still, Goff made sure to state that although God was calling for a response in love, it did not mean justice would go undone.

"So let's don't get it twisted," he said. "We're going to pursue justice, and we're going to be vigilant, and we are going to hold our elected officials and others accountable to do the right thing," he continued. "The blood of the Mother Emanuel nine requires us to work not only for justice in this case, but for those who are still living in the margin of life, those who are less fortunate than ourselves."

During his sermon, Goff thanked the hundreds of visitors and supporters who expressed kindness to "Mother Emanuel" and mentioned various government officials who offered support in the days after the "heinous act." Goff also made a point to thank law enforcement and those standing in solidarity with the congregation around the world.


Across the United States, numerous white individuals took a stand for the Charleston church in defiance of the racial boundaries. Among those crossing racial barriers to show nationwide support for the Emanuel nine was Colorado Senator Mike Johnston who penned a letter for Shorter Community AME church and taped it to the door in the middle of the night to show love for the church community.

"By Sunday morning America could blanket these churches with such overwhelming expressions of love that no one could walk through the doors of an AME church without feeling a flood of love and support from white men whose names they don't know, whose faces they can't place, but whose love they can't ignore," he wrote.

Johnston wrote about his letter on Facebook and encouraged his followers to find a way of expressing love to the AME church community.

"As a white American I think we should make a point today to make a small but powerful statement that today we all stand together: and do it by stopping by any AME church in your community and perform a quiet act of service and leave a humble note of thanks."

The church's pastor Dr. Timothy Tyler said the message "touched my heart so greatly."