Hand in hand, a crowd stands together at Metropolitan AME Church Sunday morning. It's the first service since the church massacre in Charleston claimed nine lives. Senior Pastor Jordan Mkwanazi, fearful of copycats, says you can never be too careful.
"We had security in the sanctuary and outside," said Mkwanazi.
Despite the troubling week, Mkwanazi seeks to look for the good amidst a tragedy.
"In light of what has taken place this week, last week, we wanted to preach a message of healing," said Mkwanazi.
Friday, the church held a prayer vigil for the victims in the shooting and their families. Mkwanazi says now the next step is imperative.
"We want to move from prayer to constructive engagement and dialogue," said Mkwanazi.
Messages of hope and race relations were shared to diverse crowd, still reflecting on the tragedy but feeling optimistic.
"We are living in a time now where we cannot take chances anymore. We want to make sure number one, that our people who come to church feel safe," said Mkwanazi.
Tuesday, the African Methodist Episcopal Church Ministerial Alliance will hold a town hall meeting at the church. Mkwanazi says it's time the community comes together and has a conversation.
"It is imperative, it is a must that we come together, Black, White Hispanic, Asian, to talk about how do we improve race relationships in such a time as this?
This is all in an ultimate effort to bridge cultural gaps and come together in the wake of adversity.
The meeting will take place at Metropolitan AME church on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.