Children were each asked to pour a small cup of dirt in a hole dug in the front lawn to help plant a magnolia tree in Carlie's honor.
Carlie's abduction was caught on a car wash surveillance tape as she walked home from a friend's house Feb. 1. Her body was found under some brush on the Central Church of Christ property early Friday.
"We feel a special obligation to her and this community since Carlie was found here," said church elder Ron Cutsinger. "We believe that Carlie is in a place where there is no sorrow, no pain, no fear."
Carlie's mother, Susan Schorpen, wept through much of Tuesday evening's memorial service, one of two planned this week.
Attendees crowded the front lawn of the church with lawn chairs and blankets, lighting candles as dusk fell.
Cutsinger said it was important for the church to help the community grieve.
"We refuse to let this place or this community be defined by what happened here, but instead by what we have become because of it," he said. "Now we will show a watching nation what happens when a community becomes a family."
Car mechanic Joseph P. Smith, 37, is charged with kidnapping and first-degree murder. Investigators say he was the man captured by a surveillance camera grabbing Carlie by the arm and walking her away.
Investigators have not said how she died, except by homicidal force.
A hearing was planned Wednesday on a defense request for a gag order in an effort to thwart pretrial publicity. Local media outlets intend to challenge any gag order.
Carlie's stepfather, Steven Kansler, stepped to the microphone briefly Tuesday to thank the community, especially the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office.
"They made everything a lot easier, and without them, we wouldn't have gotten through this," he said.
Middle school teacher Victoria Rowett, 46, attended the service with her son, who is the same age as Carlie. She said the community will keep Carlie's memory alive.
"There are too many people in this town who won't let this be forgotten. We live in paradise, and it got a little ugly here."