In a crowded sanctuary, elder John Gillison called out, “And the people of God shall say, Amen!”

“Can I get an Alleluia? Won’t somebody yell, Praise the Lord?”

It was Sunday morning in Charleston.

Over the past few days, the area hosted a dozen prayer vigils and candlelit tributes. Next week come the funerals and memorial services. But yesterday, in a place nicknamed “Holy City,” they worshipped.

This included Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, the site of last Wednesday's massacre, where Gillison welcomed members, guests, and media, saying, “This is the day that the Lord has made, and we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Tucked away in the back row of the balcony, part of me wondered, "Rejoice? Right now? On this day?" I was overruled by the 500-plus crowd below, who shouted along with him.

It kept coming. Prayers thanking God for his blessings. For waking them up this morning. A reading from 1 Thessalonians: “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (5:16-18, KJV). They literally sounded the trumpet, making a joyful noise with praise anthems and soloists walking the aisles until the cordless mic started cutting in and out.

“Many hearts are broken and tears are still being shed, but through it all we are reminded we serve a God who still cares,” Gillison told the congregation, the first of several messages coupling the tragedy with a testimony of God’s faithfulness.

The Missing Nine

A black cloth shrouded the seat behind the lectern, belonging to slain pastor and state senator Clementa Pinckney. In the choir, ...

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