When A Sanctuary Isn’t Safe: Commentary on the Charleston Church Shooting


Hello World,

By definition, a sanctuary is a safe place. And a church sanctuary, a place dedicated to God, should be, just ought to be the safest place on earth to dwell. And so when I heard about the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina late Wednesday night, the fact that a church sanctuary is no longer the safest place on earth was my first thought. And if you cannot be safe in a church sanctuary, well, there is really no place else to go except to Heaven…

But I’m not ignorant of American history. American black churches have long been terrorized by racist acts…

Ku Klux Klan members, planted a bomb at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama and killed four girls, Addie Mae Collins, 14; Denise McNair, 11; Carole Robertson, 14; and Cynthia Wesley, 14 on Sept. 15, 1963.

On June 16, 1964, Ku Klux Klan members, who were targeting white civil rights worker Michael Schwerner, burned down Mount Zion Church in Longdale, Mississippi but not before beating the church members as they left the church.

Within hours of the election of President Obama in November 5, 2008, three white men torched Macedonia Church of God in Christ in Springfield, Massachusetts.

And these are just a few of these terrorist acts…

And for American black people, churches have historically been much more than houses of prayer which is why black churches have been targets for racist attacks throughout the years. Aside from endeavoring to usher black people to Heaven, black churches also contributed to the betterment of their members’ lives on earth by being havens as slaves hid themselves along the Underground Railroad to escape slavery, establishing schools at a critical time in the nation’s history when education was often denied black people and affirming our humanity by refusing to allow members to be second-class citizens in their houses of worship…Below are just a few contributions of black churches to America…

First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia was a stop on the Underground Railroad as underneath the lower auditorium floor is another “subfloor.” Only four feet of height separates the floors.

Springfield Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga. is the birthplace of Morehouse College which began as Augusta Bible Institute in 1867. The name of the institute was later renamed Morehouse College, moving to Atlanta in 1879.

According to the Emanuel A.M.E. website, “in 1822 the church was investigated for its involvement with a planned slave revolt. Denmark Vesey, one of the church’s founders, organized a major slave uprising in Charleston…During the Vesey controversy, the AME church was burned. Worship services continued after the church was rebuilt until 1834 when all black churches were outlawed. The congregation continued the tradition of the African church by worshipping underground until 1865 when it was formally reorganized, and the name Emanuel was adopted, meaning ‘God with us.'”

But as our predecessors knew way back when that we have to realize right now is: Until we get Heaven (if that is where you are headed), we have to live right here in this once slavery allowing, gender pay gap perpetuating , Kim Kardashian breaking-the-Internet glorifying, Honey Boo Boo paying, ozone layer puncturing, obesity causing, transracial entertaining, God’s name in vain taking, black lives minimizing, racist white police officers excusing, school shootings fostering, prosperity gospel teaching, government stalling, election stealing, God increasingly marginalizing country of ours…And I’m sure you could add to the list…In other words, no place, not even black church sanctuaries, is safe no matter what we would like them to be.

So what are we to do on this day June 19, Juneteenth and going forward?

As simplistic as this may sound, first of all, we have to make our souls are sanctuaries. Unless, we purge the hate from our hearts, even our souls are vulnerable to the attack of the enemy which I know is the spiritual force that influenced this most recent terrorist Dylan Roof ,who was allowed to come into Emanuel A.M.E. Church’s Bible Study where he subsequently murdered nine innocent people: Emanual Pastor the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Rev. Daniel L. Simmons, the Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, and Susie Jackson . Ironically, the Bible is the blueprint for the saving of our souls.

Secondly, we have to acknowledge that racism is still here in 2015 despite our black president and all of the other accomplishments black people have amassed in recent decades. In fact, and I may be mistaken, the election of President Obama seems to have galvanized racists in a way that rivals the terrorism of white supremacists decades ago.

Thirdly, black people, white people, people that love people, all people need to find ways to promote racial reconciliation whether that be in politics, churches, in school systems, at the grocery store, etc.

In big ways and in small ways, we have to REFUSE to succumb to the prevailing notion that we are different. People may have different ways of expressing themselves and we can celebrate and should appreciate our differences, but underneath it all, we are all creations of God no matter how He grouped us.

I don’t know if my words will make a bit of difference, but this is my commentary on sanctuaries, church or otherwise, in 2015. There are none and never have been except the ones that we create within our soulds through God and take with us when we die and return to God.

At the very least, please pray for the friends and families of those slain by this terrorist…And if you live in the metro Atlanta area, there will be a prayer vigil to demonstrate solidarity with those grieving in South Carolina on Saturday evening, 6/20, at 8pm at Stockbridge City Hall, 4640 N Henry Blvd, Stockbridge, GA 30281.

Any thoughts?






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7 thoughts on “When A Sanctuary Isn’t Safe: Commentary on the Charleston Church Shooting

  1. Well said! We all need to work on on overcoming the prejudices which are part of our human nature, and .become more tolerant and loving of all humanity, regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity, per Jesus teachings. I pray for those with influential positions: fathers (and mothers), teachers, political leaders, journalists, and pastors, to set a better example of tolerance and caring. This will help prevent unstable people with a bent for violence from committing future atrocities. Those interviewed from Emmanual Church set an impressive example, with their non-revengeful attitude.

  2. Thank you! Very true. I do, however, think that the people who lost their loved ones at Emanuel are justified in their anger or whatever emotion they feel, but I hope their emotions don’t lead them to bitterness although I can certainly understand that too…