WATCH: Buffalo Black Church Leaders Aim to Make People Feel Welcome to Attend Church, but Safe While They Are Doing So

Buffalo's black church leaders react to South Carolina slayings
Buffalo’s black church leaders react to South Carolina slayings

Leaders of Buffalo’s black churches are reacting to the massacre in South Carolina, and about the need to make sure people continue to attend church, and make them feel safe while doing so. 

Beyond expressing shock and grief, and urging prayers, ministers are wrestling with a question.

In the tradition of the church, the doors are open to all. But as any man of the cloth will tell you, through any open door, the devil may stride. And their faith tells them that’s what happened in South Carolina.

And so now, they are forced to ponder that fine line between welcome and vigilance.

“You’ve always got to keep the ministry of Jesus Christ before you, so it’s got to be welcoming,” said Rev. Richard Allen Stenhouse of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Michigan Avenue. Stenhouse was an acquaintance of slain pastor, and South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, as well as one other congregation member who was killed in the massacre.

“But it also makes you more apprehensive,” Stenhouse said.

“We’ll have a more heightened sense of security,” said Rev James A. Lewis of Miracle Missions Full Gospel Church on Sycamore Street. “If it affected an A.M.E. church in South Carolina, all of us need to be aware that racism and probably the fact that some folks just don’t like us still exists.”

“I do believe that ushers and other personnel are going to be a little bit more on the alert and a little bit more concerned,” said Rev. Darius G. Pridgen, who besides being pastor at True Bethel Baptist Church is President of the Buffalo Common Council, and thus holds an elected public office like Reverend Pinckney did.

Early on Thursday (before the suspect was arrested) Pridgen urged caution in labeling the massacre a “hate crime.” However, following the arrest of the suspect and reports regarding what he allegedly told police, Pridgen on Thursday evening stated in an e-mail that “I do believe this was a hate crime.”

“What I don’t want to see is one idiot with a gun set back the real conversation that is right now happening about race and race relations in our country,” Pridgen said.

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Source: WGRZ | Dave McKinley

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