Worshippers in Milwaukee pray for victims in Charleston: "They died doing what God called them to do"

CHARLESTON, South Carolina/MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin -- "The doors of the church are open. No evildoer, no demon in hell or on Earth can close the doors of God's church," Rev. Norvel Goff said inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. On Sunday, June 21st, for the first time since nine people were shot and killed inside the church last Wednesday night, June 17th, worshippers gathered at the church to pray. Hundreds of miles away, inside the St. Mark AME Church in Milwaukee, worshippers stood in solidarity with those in Charleston.

Hundreds filled the pews of the historic church in Charleston, South Carolina on Sunday. They sang hymns, prayed and remembered the nine church members shot to death Wednesday night during Bible study.

Rev. Clementa Pinckney

One of the victims was the church's pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney. His seat behind the podium was shrouded in black cloth and uniformed police officers were present in the side aisles.

Overcoming evil with faith in God was a theme throughout the service.

Law enforcement officials have said Dylann Roof of Lexington, South Carolina, admitted to shooting and killing the nine people he'd sat with for Bible study. He told investigators he did it to start a race war, according to one of the officials.

On Friday, Roof appeared at a bond hearing. Families of the victims addressed him and said they forgave him.

Dylann Roof

"I was extremely sad to know that someone that I know personally, two people I knew personally were killed in this tragedy," Rev. Darryl Williams with the St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church said.

Rev. Williams says he visited the historic church in Charleston, South Carolina several times, and he knew two of the victims -- Rev. Daniel Simmons and the church's pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

"They died doing what God called them to do. They were welcoming. They were loving. They were studying God`s word," Rev. Williams said.

Rev. Williams says last Wednesday night -- he, too was leading a Bible study.

"I left with a myriad of emotions -- one of those, I wouldn`t say fear -- maybe a little sense of insecurity at first," Rev. Williams said.

But as he led his congregation on Sunday morning, Rev. Williams spoke of the need to overcome this tragedy.

"We are a forgiving people but I do want to point out that forgiveness is a process," Rev. Williams said.

Rev. Williams says worshippers in South Carolina and Milwaukee cannot allow Dylann Roof to win.

"You have to remember who you are. We are a people of faith, and if we allow one mad man to stop us from doing what God calls us to do, that mad man wins and we are not going to allow that mad man to win," Rev. Williams said.

At 10 a.m. Sunday, churches around Charleston -- nicknamed the Holy City because it has so many houses of worship -- rang their bells in solidarity with Emanuel AME.

The bell at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church rang 81 times -- nine times for each victim.

CLICK HERE to learn more about St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church in Milwaukee.