by Aaron Earls
Emanuel means “God with us,” and the members of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, are clinging to that truth today.
Last night, nine churchgoers, including the pastor, were gunned down during a Wednesday night Bible study at the historic African American church.
“This is the most unspeakable and heartbreaking tragedy in historic Emanuel AME church, the mother church of the AME churches,” said Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley.
“People in prayer Wednesday evening, a ritual coming together, praying and worshiping God. To have an awful person come in and shoot them is inexplicable,” said Riley. “Obviously the most intolerable and unbelievable act possible.”
Unfortunately, these “unbelievable” acts have become more believable. Carl Chinn knows this all too well.
In 1996, Chinn came face-to-face with the need for security while working with Focus on the Family. He responded to a gunman who took hostages at the Colorado ministry.
Later, he began researching security and the threats faced by faith-based groups. Unfortunately, his expertise was needed at his home church, New Life Church in Colorado Springs. They faced a gunman on a killing spree in 2007.
Chinn advises churches to work with other leaders in the area to be better prepared. “Work with your community first and foremost,” he says. “Know your law enforcement and fellow faith-based safety operators in your area on a first name basis.”
Working with other safety professionals like those at area schools is also a good idea, according to Chinn. “Don’t be a silo of information,” he says.
For churches looking for some simple steps to help make themselves more secure, Chinn offers these nine guidelines.
- Confirm support from your church’s leadership team
- Do some sort of base-line readiness evaluation
- Start with what you have, where you are
- Keep it simple
- Keep it legal
- Know your insurance agent and policies
- Network with your community
- Train and drill
- Develop policies and procedures
The key to creating a good safety and security plan is to break the work into manageable pieces. Guidestone’s Property & Casualty Program has several resources to help churches build a safety and security plan.
But today, Emanuel AME Church and the city of Charleston try to move forward after the latest hate-filled act.
Another church in the city, Morris Brown AME Church, held a prayer service to remember those who were killed, pray for survivors and loved ones, and seek healing from the God they know as Emanuel.
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.