The face of Nelson Mandela looked down from the stained glass windows of Regina Mundi church in Soweto as an old man held the hand of his grandson and they danced and sang.
"We have so much to be thankful for," said Tommy Zwange, 78, one of the many millions who gathered in churches, temples, mosques and homes yesterday for a national day of prayer. More than a 1,000 people were around him in the church near Mandela's old house, which was once a shelter to those who resisted apartheid. Zwange remembered the day the South African police opened fire on innocent people, inside the church. "I remember the noise, and the people screaming. There was going to be a war. We can thank God and Mandela that it did not happen."
President Jacob Zuma yesterday urged people not to waste that legacy, but to build a future based on Mandela's values of unity, freedom and justice. At the beginning of the official programme of mourning, he hoped these prayer services would "heal the nation". They were the first chance for people to meet and remember the man many call Madiba - his tribal name - and others know as Tata, the Xhosa word for father. Even those who once called him their enemy were thankful.
The Dutch Reformed Church in East Pretoria was once known as the altar of apartheid, because the Bible teachings there sought to provide a basis for racial separation. Pastor Niekie Lamprecht remembered the fear that some felt when Mandela came to power, and said: "What helped the white people of South Africa was Mandela's attitude. He said let's forgive, and he forgave. That created a space for people to feel safe and change at a time when the expectation was that there was going to be a war."
On Monday there will be a debate in parliament. The following day, a celebration will take place inside the Nasrec station, where South Africa hosted the World Cup football final. Then the body of the former president will lie in state in a glass coffin at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, before it is flown to his home village of Qunu for the biggest funeral this country has ever seen.
Yesterday was the start of it all, a day for prayers and songs and for sermons. Zuma gave one of his own at a church in Johannesburg. The president, who had called a national day of prayer to mark the life of the Nobel laureate, told mourners in Bryanstown Methodist Church: "We should pray for us not to forget some of the values that Madiba stood for, that he fought for, that he sacrificed his life for.
"When our struggle came to an end, he preached and practised reconciliation, to make those who had been fighting to forgive one another and become one nation. "He preached and believed in peace, that we should live in peace, that we should live in unity, we should be united as a Rainbow Nation. "He believed in caring and he cared for our nation. He believed in forgiving and forgave, even those who kept him in jail for 27 years."
Like many a preacher before him, Zuma caused observers to wonder whether he was capable of living up to his own words. In the run up to presidential elections next year, some are asking whether their current leader is tainted by corruption, as his own party, and those of his rivals, are riven by dispute. That is something the Mandela family knows about. They fought with each other in the courts over the summer, arguing about who should have control over his financial legacy and even his bones, while the ailing patriarch was not even dead, but lying in hospital.
Mandla, the eldest grandson, who made an attempt to have Mandela buried in his own village, to his profit, was ostracised by the family at the time. But he sat in the front pew of the church yesterday as Mr Zuma spoke, alongside Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Mandela's former wife. Making her first public appearance since his death, dressed in a black turban, she listened intently. She has fought battles of her own, determined to be seen as the Mandela family matriarch. Graca Machel, Mandela's third wife, who was at his side every day in the hospital as he lay close to death, has maintained her usual dignified silence. For others yesterday, there was already a sense that mourning should give way to celebration for his long life and all they feel he achieved for them. It was fitting that this should start with prayers of thanks.
Nelson Mandela was educated in a Methodist school and baptised a Methodist as a young man. After he was released from prison, it was clear that his ideas of radical forgiveness were founded on that experience, but he took pains not to talk about his personal faith in public. He believed he should not be seen to favour any particular side in his new rainbow nation of cultures and faiths.
At the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Johannesburg yesterday, leaders of many faiths paid tribute. Among them was the country's Chief Rabbi, Warren Goldstein, who said: "He was like Joseph in the Bible: he came out of jail and became president and like Joseph, he was prepared to forgive his brothers."
In Soweto, Father Sebastian Rossaw urged the congregation to be like Mandela. "God sent us our own John the Baptist, he sent us this man who could show us - despite what was going on at the time - that the light could still shine in the night." He said many believe there will never be another man like Mandela, but added: "I beg to differ. I dare to say that among you dear people gathered here there may be a man or a woman who will say, 'Yes, I will shine like the moonlight, as Mandela did'."
After the two hour mass, Zwange lifted his four-year-old grandson, Moosra, into his arms and said: "He is only young now, but he knows Mandela. He will grow up to understand what this man did for us, as will all the children here. That gives us hope."