More than a week after a white gunman fatally shot the Rev. Clementa Pinckney and eight others during Bible study at Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, mourners lined up Thursday to pay their respects as the pastor entered the church one last time.
The crowd was hushed as six pallbearers carried his mahogany casket, topped with a wreath of red roses, up the steps of the historic African American church.
Pinckney's wife, Jennifer, held both daughters' hands firmly as they entered the modest white-washed building. A faint hymn carried through the thick summer breeze as a procession of men -- members of the Sons of Allen ministry -- appeared a block down from the church on Calhoun Street.
"We are soldiers in the army," they sang. "We have to fight, although we have to cry. We have to hold up the bloodstained banner. We have to hold it up until we die."
Hundreds of friends, congregants and well-wishers queued outside on Calhoun Street. By the time evening fell, the line stretched for three blocks and wrapped around the church.
Tide Williams, a pianist and member of neighboring Wallingford Presbyterian Church, was among those waiting to view Pinckney's casket.
"We know that Pinckney is not really there," she told the Los Angeles Times. "He's in glory."
"Amen," nodded her friend, Audrey Lisbon, 59, her fellow church member and a musician. "This world is not home for those who believe. We're just passing through to the eternal life."
Pinckney's public funeral service will be Friday at the College of Charleston's T.D. Arena. President Obama will deliver the eulogy.
Pinckney, who also was a state senator, will be laid to rest at St. James AME Church in Marion, S.C.
Funeral services for some of the eight other parishioners began Thursday.
In North Charleston, Ethel Lance’s funeral was held at the Royal Missionary Baptist Church.
Lance, 70, spent decades as a custodian at Charleston’s Gaillard Auditorium and was a sexton at Emanuel for the last five years. She loved gospel music, according to the funeral notice.
"She was a God-fearing woman," said granddaughter Najee Washington, 23, who lived with Lance. "She was the heart of the family, and she still is. She is a very caring, giving and loving woman. She was beautiful inside and out."
Lance was to be buried at Emanuel AME Church Cemetery.
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton’s services also were scheduled for Thursday in North Charleston.
Funerals for the other victims will take place over the next week.
In the eight days since the shooting, a steady stream of Charleston residents have gathered outside Emanuel AME on Calhoun Street – named for John C. Calhoun, America's seventh vice president and a leading defender of slavery -- to pray, sing gospel songs and drop off small offerings, including flowers, balloons, wooden crosses, candles, alabaster boxes and seashells.
Many mourners have scrawled handwritten messages. Some have stuck Post-it notes to the church's simple wooden crucifix, others have carved Bible verses into the bark of trees.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God,” one mourner wrote in red marker pen on a yellow card propped against the church's black wrought-iron fence.
“And now these three things remain: faith, hope and love,” scribbled another. “But the greatest of these is LOVE.”
Jarvie reported from Charleston, Muskal from Los Angeles.