Hundreds of people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston as it reopens to worshippers days after gunman shot dead nine church members.
The historic church in South Carolina where a white gunman murdered nine black worshippers held its first service since the massacre on Sunday, an emotional gathering celebrating the lives of those slain.
Hundreds of congregants, some tearful, packed the Emanuel African American Episcopal Church for a service led by visiting clergy because the congregation's pastor was among those killed by a white supremacist said to have been trying to ignite a race war.
The service offered the still-grieving community of Charleston the opportunity to mark what many argued was its triumph in thwarting the shooter's aim to foment hatred.
Celebrants at Emanuel AME church, meanwhile, said the accused gunman – 21-year-old Dylann Roof – had also failed miserably in his quest to break their spirit of love and faith.
"There they were in the house of the Lord, studying your word, praying with one another," said visiting minister Reverend Norvel Goff from the pulpit of the Emanuel AME church, four days after the massacre.
"But the Devil also entered. And the Devil was trying to take charge," he said.
"Thanks be to God, hallelujah, that the Devil cannot take control of your people. And the Devil cannot take control of your church."
A website allegedly created by Roof has been found, in which he wrote a 2,500 word racist screed against African Americans and appears in photos with guns and burning the US flag.