Local churches reviewing security plans after tragedy in Texas

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The reality of 26 people murdered at a small South Texas church on Sunday is still setting in for many across the nation.

And as folks are keeping the dozens of families in their thoughts and prayers – it brings about the question: Are churches in our area stepping up security in response to the shooting?

The pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in West Ashley, Spike Coleman, said his church began a safety plan a couple of years ago after the tragedy at Mother Emanuel AME.

Right now, they are in the implementation stage. The biggest difference, Coleman said, is showing how hospitality and safety go hand in hand.

"Those are two sides to the very same coin," Coleman said. "It's not so much whether they have a firearm, it's whether they have a need. If they're visiting and they seem upset or they seem to have a need, how can we best meet that need and be the body of Christ for them."

Coleman said if something is really off, though, they have a great relationship with the Charleston County Sheriff's Office and will not hesitate to call 911.

Coleman added the tragedy in Texas hits very close to home.

"When I first heard about it, of course, my mind and heart went back to Mother Emanuel and what our community experienced on June 17, 2015," Coleman said. "I was one of the responders that night as a Chaplain with Coastal Christ Chaplaincy. And so I was with the survivors and their family members and the victims' family members as well. And so my heart went out to them."

Coleman said they, like many smaller churches, don't have the budget for metal detectors.

And when it comes to carrying weapons, if they need that kind of protection,  Coleman said they'll call law enforcement.

Coleman said this tragedy brings up a bigger conversation the community needs to have.

"One of the things we really need to come to terms with is the epidemic of gun violence in our country," Coleman said. "We're at the point now where we can't even talk about it without people going crazy. And we need to be able to talk about it in a calm, collected, rational manner and work together to come up with common-sense solutions that will keep us safe."

Coleman added that this type of tragedy is going to change the community in Texas forever.

But he hopes they realize that they're in the prayers of many people.

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