Faith & Religion

Georgetown native became national leader following deadly church shootings

There’s no way the Georgetown son would have known that one day he would be featured in Ebony Magazine, on TV news channels like CNN, or sharing a stage with the president of the United States.

And yet, the Rev. Dr. Goff Sr. – as he is best known today – has done all those things. Most strikingly, however, he has been the calming center throughout the trials and tribulations put into motion in Charleston after nine parishioners were gunned down June 17 inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“I think God has been preparing me all my life for what He was calling me to do,” Goff said in an interview with The Georgetown Times this week.

As presiding elder of the Edisto District of the 7th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Epsicopal Church, Goff was called in by 7th Episcopal District Bishop Richard Franklin Norris to act as interim pastor at Emanuel, often called “Mother Emanuel,” following the slaying of its senior pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

Since taking on the role, Goff has been ministering not just the churchgoers at Mother Emanuel and the grieving families of the victims but the city of Charleston, too.

He has been under the watchful eyes of millions of American people across the nation as he took to the pulpit days after the shooting to deliver a Sunday service, as he led services at the murdered parishioners’ funerals, and as he spoke alongside President Barack Obama at the funeral of Pinckney, who was also a state senator.

And although the shooting has quickly grown into a statewide and national debate of the use of the Confederate flag and race relations in general, Goff maintains his church is his first priority.

“Our focus has been the nine families who lost loved ones,” he said. “Those issues may arise and warrant it, especially about the flag, in the arena of ideas and politics, community activists and faith, but in due time. There is a time and place for everything. For us, this is a time to heal. When it comes to the flag, Gov. (Nikki) Haley is to be commended for her position, but there are other things we need to work on. … What’s the common good and the greater good for the community? That’s where I am and where my concern is.”

The pastor only recently began working as the elder of the Edisto District. Bishop Norris promoted him to the position in November 2014. Prior to that, he ministered at AME churches in Columbia, Hartford, Connecticut and Rochester, New York. In Hartford and Rochester, the Georgetown native also served as the president of local NAACP chapters, and in Connecticut he ran for the state Senate and served as the majority leader of the Hartford City Council. Goff is an alumnus of Morris Brown College and Yale University School of Divinity.

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