What It’s Like for This Black Church After Charleston

“It’s difficult to not judge, to not be suspicious of anyone because you want to give everyone the opportunity to come in and to worship freely.” — Creisha Lewis-Cotton

By Alain Stephens & Lucia BenavidesJuly 2, 2015 9:40 am|

In the wake of the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, the South has seen a surge of fires at black churches. In 10 days six churches have gone up in flames. Officials believe many are the product of arson. We hear these stories in the news, but what does it look like from the perspective of the congregations and clergy members? Texas Standard’s David Brown talks with Creisha Lewis-Cotton. She’s a church secretary at the Union Center AME Church in Conroe, Texas.

On her church taking safety precautions:

“There is a concern that the violence that has been spilling over could spill over into our county. Right now we haven’t experienced any of it first hand and of course we are very sympathetic who have experienced this violence… the congregants are becoming more aware of their surroundings and…their safety while worshipping in church.”

On still being open to strangers coming to church:

“It’s difficult to not judge, to not be suspicious of anyone because you want to give everyone the opportunity to come in and to worship freely, which I do believe happened on that day. So they just went about the regular course of business and opened their doors to anyone who wanted to come in and learn more about the Lord. However because of that it does tend to send a signal that this person may be out of place…if they’re not dressed like everyone else…if no one there is familiar with them. If they are of another ethnic origin and they were to come into an all black church but they were familiar with someone there they wouldn’t be as suspicious.”

On being open to strangers while trying to stay safe:

“It makes it very difficult, but you have to remember the reason why you’re here… You have to remember that it is your job to minister to the lost; to the hurting; to the confused. So you have to keep that in the forefront of everything all while trying to protect yourself and the other persons who are worshipping at that time.”

On attendance at the church since the shooting:

“There are always a greater number whenever anything traumatic happens. A lot of time the first thing people do is run to what they’re familiar with and coming to the church always been the center of everyday life for most black people. That’s all in history. That’s all we had that was the only place we really had to feel safe… So even in light of the recent church fires and the incident where the young man did take the nine lives in that church, they were still able to go back there on Sunday morning because no matter what happened they still felt safe there. There was still a sense of security there.”