By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
Weeks after a lone gunman killed nine in a Charleston church, AME leaders have distributed a document tiled, 12 Considerations for Congregational Security.
Prayer was the chief tip. But the document also calls for creating a security plan and team, improving communication, developing relationships with local law enforcement and securing and monitoring the church’s entrance and exit points.
“Knowledge is power, and we are trying to do what we can to empower churches,” said Lonnie Randolph, president of the S.C. State Conference of the NAACP, in a meeting with more than 150 ministers and church members at a local high school in Columbia, S.C., a few weeks after the shooting.
“It was an unfortunate event that took place, a very sad event, but we also know that this could have happened anywhere in America,” Randolph said.
Other ministers are discussing the topic in public including John Richard Bryant, the senior bishop of the AME church, who recently discussed church security in an Aug. 12, 2015 address at the National Press Club in Washington.
Some say the obvious solution is to change the open-door policy. But the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, pastor at Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C., and president of the North Carolina NAACP said, “To change the open-door policy would be to change the Gospel.”
“That is not the way the Black church has responded historically,” Barber said.
The challenge is to marry tradition with glaring new realities, said the Rev. Dr. J. Anthony Josey, an ordained itinerant elder at Washington’s Allen Chapel AME. “ I think there’s a keen awareness … we’re more vigilant of our surroundings.”
“Now I think along with the welcome comes an era of vigilance,” Josey said. “That sixth sense kicks in now, whereas before maybe we had become a little bit more complacent.”