Local religious leaders are reacting to the Wednesday shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopalian Church in Charleston, S.C. that killed nine people.
Reverend Arthur Price is the pastor of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. He told WBHM’s Rachel Osier Lindley he has received many calls from church members, expressing “sympathy, shock, sadness and sorrow for the horrific events.”
Rev. Price says he hopes the shooting doesn’t make churches weary of outsiders.
“The church should be open for anyone who comes in,” says Rev. Price. “We had some visitors who came to our Bible study and prayer meeting last night as well. Never did we think that they were going to be a threat. I’m quite sure the same went through the minds of the pastor and that congregation last night.”
Rev. Price says he imagines Emanuel AME congregants were glad that “people wanted to come to study the word of God, to be with the people of God, to offer prayers to God.”
“You would never think that someone would do such a senseless and heinous act as this,” says Rev. Price.
The 16th Street Baptist Church is no stranger to tragedy. On Sunday, September 15, 1963 a bomb exploded at the church, killing four young girls.
Rev. Price says the church’s reconciliation process was difficult, but “with time, God is able to heal hurts.” He thinks Emanuel AME will go through the same process of grief and rebuilding.
“In our situation, the Sunday school lesson that day was “A Love That Forgives” says Rev. Price. “Our congregation never knew that they would have to actually live that out in such a way in response to what happened here.”
Asked about any special plans the church has to mark the Charleston attack, Rev. Price says he’ll speak about it on Sunday. And the church won’t be canceling any of its regular activities.
“We have night ministry events that will continue to take place,” says Price. “We’re not going to allow an act of terror to stop us from doing what God has called us to do.”
Rev. Price does think the shooting in Charleston will cause churches to review their security procedures. But, he adds, “Will churches close, and will churches not be inviting and welcoming to outsiders? I don’t think churches will do that.”