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Hundreds gather for first funerals of Charleston shooting victims

The title of a lecture held at the church last night was “The Power of Love.”

APTOPIX Charleston Shootings Source: AP

HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE stood to clap, nod and sway at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, South Carolina today, as the first funerals of last week’s shooting victims got under way.

At a service for 70-year-old Ethel Lance, ushers walked through the aisles with boxes of tissues for people to dab their tears as an organ, drums and bass guitar played along with the gospel choir.

“I want my grandmother’s legacy to be what she stood for” said granddaughter Aja Risher.

She is going to be a catalyst for change in this country.

Services for Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, were also held this afternoon, and funerals for the other victims were set to happen over the next week, including one Friday for the church pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

President Barack Obama, who knew Pinckney personally, will speak at his memorial.

Charleston Shooting Source: Associated Press

Last night, just a week after nine of its members were fatally shot, the church once again held Bible study in the room where the deaths happened.

More than 100 church members and visitors packed into Emanuel’s basement last night, exactly seven days after police said Dylann Roof killed the church’s pastor and eight other members during the weekly gathering.

A table adorned with flowers and a poster covered with expressions of sympathy sat at the head of the room, in front of a raised lectern to be used by the church’s pastor.

Armed Charleston police patrolled inside and outside the church, while a string trio played religious hymns in the background.

Interim pastor Norvel Goff gave the multiracial crowd a lecture on “The Power of Love”.

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The church’s website says the Bible study session happens in the basement every Wednesday at 6pm, and is open to anyone with “a desire to learn more about God”.

Large crowds also appear to have gathered outside the building to mark the study group, as shown in this picture taken by CNN producer Gigi Mann.

Funerals for the murdered members will begin today, pastor Clementa Pinckney’s funeral on Friday.

Contains reporting by the Associated Press.

WATCH: Families of victims tell Charleston shooting suspect “I forgive you”>

Read: White supremacist manifesto and pictures of Charleston suspect found online>

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Dan MacGuill

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