LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Large groups gathered at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles Sunday to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela.

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More than 1,000 First A.M.E. church members paid their respects at the morning service, where Bishop T. Larry Kirkland spoke about the legacy of the late South African leader, who passed away last week at the age of 95.

“We celebrate him today. Even though he’s gone, we celebrate a life worth living,” Bishop Kirkland said.

L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson was among those in attendance.

“I don’t think South Africa would be the nation it is today if it wasn’t for him,” Wesson said.

CBS2’s Art Barron reports there was a special connection between Mandela and First A.M.E.

He first visited the church during a visit to Los Angeles in June of 1990, and pastor J. Edgar Boyd said the freedom fighter looked at the church as a place of hope.

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“Nelson Mandela told his family this was his home church in America and certainly in Los Angeles and California,” Boyd said.

“He had a great affinity for this community and this community had a great affinity and love for him.”

Congregants paid their respects by signing pages of condolences that Mandela’s family in South Africa will read.

“You’re a world hero,” one person wrote.

“God bless the Mandela family,” another message read.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti also paid tribute to Mandela, and his fight to end racial segregation.

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“We here in Los Angeles, the predecessors of mine, mayors like Tom Bradley and council members that came before us, fought to make sure Los Angeles stood up loud and clear against the horrors of apartheid,” he said.