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Charleston's AME Chuch holds first service after shooting

By Andrew V. Pestano
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Charleston's AME Chuch holds first service after shooting
Pastors Dimas Salaberrios (right) and Kyle Kneen speak to mourners during a vigil outside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 20, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. The vigil was held for the nine people shot and killed inside the church on June 17, 2015. A suspect, Dylann Roof, 21, was arrested in connection with the shootings. Photo by Kevin Liles/UPI | License Photo

CHARLESTON, S.C., June 21 (UPI) -- Days after the murder of nine black parishioners by an alleged white supremacist, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., has reopened.

"We still believe that prayer changes things," a church official told the congregation. "But prayer not only changes things it changes us. And as we come on this Father's Day, we want to say have a blessed Father's Day."

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"Many hearts are broken and tears are still being shed. Through it all we are reminded that we serve a God who still cares," he added.

The church held services Sunday to honor the nine members it lost after Wednesday's mass shooting. Bullet holes were cut out of the church's walls so those attending would not see them.

RELATED Calls mount for removal of Confederate flag in wake of Charleston church shooting

South Carolina Sen. Clementa Pickney, 41, who was also a pastor at the church; Cynthia Hurd, 54; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; and the reverends DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49; Sharonda Singleton, 45; and Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, died in the attack.

Dylan Roof, 21, reportedly confessed to gunning down the churchgoers near the end of a Bible study session at the church.

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Roof allegedly holds strong racial sentiments against black people. The AME Church is seen as a prominent part of black history.

RELATED 'Manifesto' found online said to be written by accused Charleston gunman

A website registered to the name Dylann Roof contains an apparent "manifesto" that possibly disclosed his motives for the shooting rampage.

The writings, purportedly by Roof, were discovered Saturday on an obscure segregationist website called lastrhodesian.com. It contains several photographs of the suspect holding a confederate flag and a handgun.

The murders have reignited a nationwide discussion on racism in America. Many have called for the Confederate flag to be removed from South Carolina's state capital, Columbia.

President Barack Obama said the flag belonged "in a museum."

Arthur Hurd, husband of victim Cynthia Hurd, said he forgives Roof.

"This is all surreal, but what I can say to that young man is that in time I will forgive you," Hurd told a CNN affiliate. "I won't move past this but I will forgive you. But I hope for the rest of your life, however long or short that may be, you stop and play that tape over and over and over again in your head and see the sheer terror and pain you put purely innocent people through."

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"I would love to hate you but hate's not in me. If I hate you I'm no better than you," Hurd added.

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