By BRUCE SMITH
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Amid singing and prayer, a communitywide memorial service remembering the victims of the Charleston church shootings got underway Friday in a sports arena a few blocks from Emanuel AME Church.
The service marked the one-year anniversary of the shootings that claimed the lives of nine parishioners during a Bible study at the historic black church. A white man, Dylann Roof, faces death penalty trials in both state and federal courts.
As the service got underway, church leaders walked down the aisle to the stage as a choir sang. Later, the congregation sang Lift Every Voice and Sing. The stage was lined with pictures of the nine Emanuel AME victims, the words “Still Speaking from Eternity” above each picture.
The College of Charleston’s TD Arena sits about 5,100 people, and it appeared to be about half full as the service got underway. It’s the same venue where President Barack Obama last year led the congregation in Amazing Grace during a funeral for the church’s pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney.
Gov. Nikki Haley and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott were scheduled to give remarks at the service. The congregation was also expected to hear a message from President Obama.
Smaller services later Friday at Emanuel AME are among about two dozen events marking the anniversary of the shootings during the coming days. Wesley Theological Seminary on Friday announced the establishment of a degree program to honor Pinckney, who was working on a thesis dealing with his dual role as public servant and minister when he was killed.
Pinckney Scholarships have also been established to help students in need.
Meg Kinnard contributed to this report from Columbia.