CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA —
"God wants Charleston to be a lighthouse," proclaimed one clergyman at a vigil in remembrance of the nine people who died in a shooting Wednesday at Emanuel AME Church.
Hundreds of people joined in the singing of hymns and recitation of prayer in a sports arena in Charleston, South Carolina.
"God wants Charleston because Charleston loves itself," the clergyman said, adding that it is the kind of community where people greet each other in the streets and care about one another.
Before the service began, lines had formed in front of the TD Arena Friday afternoon.
Organizers had been warning that space at TD Arena was limited and seating would be on a first come, first served basis. Roads around the arena were closed.
WATCH: Related video from service
In addition to the community prayer service in Charleston, services were planned around the country.
The service Friday culminated a day of mourning in the southern city.
Dozens of family members, residents and visitors paid their respects at a makeshift memorial outside of the church in central Charleston.
Bouquets of flowers and ribbons decorated with the names of the victims lined the sidewalks, outside the church, which were blocked by police tape.
Strangers of varying ages and races embraced each other, offering their support and vowing not to allow the tragedy to tear their city apart.
"Our message to our community, our whole community is we appreciate all the love and support, but truly speaking we didn't expect any less because the people here are like the climate; they are warm, they're caring, they're loving," Marlene Coakley Jenkins told VOA.
Coakley Jenkins is the sister of shooting victim Myra Thompson, who led the Bible study Wednesday night.
Jerome Socolovsky contributed to this report from Charleston, South Carolina