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Wake Held for Slain Pastor at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston

  • Molly McKitterick

Church member Thomas Rose leaves a wake for Sen. Clementa Pinckney, one of the nine killed in last week's shooting at Emanuel AME Church, June 25, 2015, in Charleston.

Church member Thomas Rose leaves a wake for Sen. Clementa Pinckney, one of the nine killed in last week's shooting at Emanuel AME Church, June 25, 2015, in Charleston.

The body of South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney came home Thursday evening to the church where he had been pastor for the past five years: Emanuel AME in Charleston.

Pinckney was one of nine black people killed by a white gunman during Bible study last week at the church, known affectionately as "Mother Emanuel." On Thursday, a wake was held at the church so that members of his congregation could pay their last respects.

Thousands had already filed past Pinckney’s open casket at the South Carolina State House on Wednesday in Columbia, where he had served as a senator since 2000. The 41-year-old was the youngest African-American ever elected to the state Senate.

President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy at Pinckney’s funeral Friday. First lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, are also slated to attend. The event at a local sports arena will be open to the public.

The Rev. Al Sharpton (R) watches as the casket of Ethel Lance is carried to a hearse following her funeral service, June 25, 2015, in North Charleston, S.C.

The Rev. Al Sharpton (R) watches as the casket of Ethel Lance is carried to a hearse following her funeral service, June 25, 2015, in North Charleston, S.C.

Meanwhile, hundreds of mourners on Thursday attended the music-filled funeral for church sexton Ethel Lance, 70, who was the first of the Emanuel AME victims to be buried.

Lance, a lover of gospel music, had five children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. "She can be a symbol for love,'' grandson Brandon Risher said during the service at Royal Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston. "Hate is powerful but love is more powerful.''

People dabbed at their eyes with handkerchiefs and batted at the muggy air with cardboard fans handed out at the door. The Reverend Jesse Jackson, Mayor Joe Riley, Governor Nikki Haley and U.S. Representative Mark Sanford attended.

Lance's service was quickly followed by one for Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, at Charleston's Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church. She was an assistant pastor at Emanuel AME.

Police were present at both services, checking bags and ensuring security.

Funerals for the other victims were expected to follow next week.

Dylann Roof, who has been charged with the shootings, had posted pictures of himself on the Internet with symbols of white supremacy.

In a statement Thursday, Roof's family acknowledged that there were questions about the story behind the shootings, but said now was not the time to answer them.

"After an appropriate time, there will be an opportunity to have questions answered, but we ask that right now, care and attention and support be given to the grieving family members of the victims," the statement said.

Some information for this report came from AP.

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