TRENTON (WPVI) -- Members of the AME churches are reeling after the massacre in South Carolina.
Reverend Lynda Rassman of St. Paul's in Pleasantville has family in the Charleston area whom she's been checking with all day.
"Seems to be my own personal family, we survived it. Do we know someone that's close in? Yes we do. So it's a direct hit to all of us," Rassman said.
She was among a group of South Jersey AME pastors meeting in Trenton Thursday.
They started with a prayer for the victims of the church massacre, including a man several of them knew: Reverend Clementa Pinckney, the pastor who was leading the doomed prayer meeting and bible study class in South Carolina.
Reverend Hinsley has known Pinckney since college.
"I was very devastated. He was an outstanding young man. Very gifted, very talented," Reverend Kemperal Hinsley of Wells Chapel AME in Toms River said.
"It's ungodly. It's demonic. Unfortunately, it's a sign of the times," AME Presiding Elder Reverend Larry Dixon said.
"Right away when I heard about it my heart broke in half," Reverend Charles Boyer of Bethel AME in Woodbury said.
Rev. Boyer says it's hard to accept that a place where people come for solace and peace could be turned into a killing field.
"It's a sanctuary and for the sanctuary to be violated with violence, for blood to be spilled through hatred, for someone to violate that sacred covenant, that sacred space-unspeakable," Boyer said.
Pastors don't understand the hatred that motivated the accused gunman, 21-year-old Dylann Roof.
They're upset that after being welcomed into the prayer meeting, Roof then opened fire on innocent people.
"To know that this person, this perpetrator, sat in the bible study, the prayer meeting and was there for an hour and then to commit this heinous act, it's just imaginable," Reverend Stanley Justice of Mt. Zion AME in Trenton said.
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