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Church shooting victims' funerals begin in South Carolina

TRAGIC: Nine black people were fatally shot last week in a church by a white terrorist

THE BODY of Pastor Clementa Pinckney returns home this evening (Jun 25), where his flock has been preaching love in the face of the hate crime that took his life and those of eight others.

The wake for the late reverend and state senator shot dead teaching a Bible class over a week ago will commence in the house of worship where he was felled - Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

And mourners in Charleston, South Carolina, will begin committing to the ground the remains of the people whom Dylann Roof, 21, killed in a racist shooting spree on June 17.

Today, they will say goodbye to Ethel Lance and Reverend Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, reported CNN.

Before bullets struck Lance down at age 70, she was enjoying retirement after dedicating 34 years to the performing arts.

Coleman-Singleton was a speech therapist and high school track coach. Her son Chris described her as "a God-fearing woman (who) loved everybody with all her heart." If everyone loved the way she did, hate wouldn't have a chance, he said.

On Wednesday, about 150 worshippers gathered to hear a lesson titled The Power of Love in the same basement room Roof drenched with blood.

Interim Pastor Norvel Goff Senior. re-consecrated the ground. "This territory belongs to God," he said.

Bible study will continue," Goff told the crowd, "but because of what happened, we will never be the same."

"Last week," Goff said, "dark powers came over Mother Emanuel," as the church is lovingly called. "But, that's alright. God in his infinite wisdom said 'that's alright. I've got the nine.' "

According to CNN, an armed Charleston police officer kept watch over the meeting.

A week before, Roof had sat through the class for an hour with his victims before declaring he was there "to kill black people," pulled out a pistol and opened fire.

He has admitted to the killings, and was charged with nine counts of murder. Additionally, the Department of Justice is likely to pursue federal hate crime charges against him, law enforcement officials told CNN.

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