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Charleston church in mourning to hold Sunday service

People prayed, wept, dropped colourful flowers and wrote inspirational notes Saturday at the historic black church where nine people were shot earlier this week at the end of a Bible study meeting. The "Mother" Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston will re-open for a Sunday service.

'Mother' Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church set to reopen after Wednesday's shooting

The men of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. lead a crowd of people in prayer outside the Emanuel AME Church June 19, 2015 after a memorial in Charleston, S.C. (Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press)

People prayed, wept, dropped colourful flowers and wrote inspirational notes Saturday at the historic black church where nine people were shot earlier this week at the end of a Bible study meeting. The "Mother" Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston will re-open for a Sunday service.

The memorial in front of the "Mother" Emanuel continued to grow, and a steady stream of people passed by to pay their respects. The church is set to open Sunday morning for the first time since the shooting, with Sunday school and morning services scheduled, parishioner Cassie Watson, 69, said.

On Saturday, more than a dozen people — presumably congregation members, including Watson — trickled into the church. They used a parking lot that's still closed to the public and then a side door on the street to enter the building after a cleaning crew had worked on it. 

Harold Washington, 75, was with the group and saw the room the victims were shot in.

Large turnout expected on Sunday

"They did a good job cleaning it up, there were a few bullet holes around but what they did, they cut them out so you don't see the actual holes," he said.

He said he expected an emotional service Sunday, and a large turnout.

"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. "It's a church of the Lord — you don't turn nobody down."

The church had that same welcoming nature when Roof walked into their Bible study, Felecia Sanders, who survived the shooting, said at Roof's bail hearing Friday. She lost her son Tywanza in the attack.

Noah Nicolaisen, of Charleston, S.C., kneels at a makeshift memorial down the street from the Emanuel AME Church. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Two pastors from Oregon and New York asked the crowd outside the church on Saturday to join hands and pray. The men stood together on a long step stool and spoke about how their common religion is more important than their race.

The Rev. Kyle Kneen, who is white, is a retired pastor from Florence, Oregon. Pastor Dimas Salaberrios, who is black, came to Charleston from Astoria, New York.

Roof's family releases statement

"I'm a follower of Jesus Christ. I'm an African-American second," Salaberrios said. "God did not welcome me into the church just to hang out with black people."

Roof's public defender released a statement from his family offering prayers and sympathy for the victims, and expressing "shock, grief and disbelief as to what happened that night."

"We have all been touched by the moving words from the victims' families offering God's forgiveness and love in the face of such horrible suffering," the statement said.

Roof had complained while getting drunk on vodka recently that "blacks were taking over the world" and that "someone needed to do something about it for the white race," according to Joey Meek, who tipped off the FBI when he saw his friend on surveillance images.

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