Coast churches think safety, still preach message of love - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Coast churches think safety, still preach message of love

A teacher at First Missionary Baptist Church in Biloxi teaches a class during Vacation Bible School. (Photo source: WLOX) A teacher at First Missionary Baptist Church in Biloxi teaches a class during Vacation Bible School. (Photo source: WLOX)
SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) -

The murders of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, has shocked the nation, and it has shocked the Coast.

Vacation Bible School at First Missionary Baptist Church in Biloxi has more meaning on this day.

While members and leaders of the church are prepared for safety, they're not prepared to shut out people from their message of love, not hate. Cass Woods is a member and a teacher for Vacation Bible School.

“I'm not worried for my safety. Even though when I heard the news my first thought was, ‘My God, we're not safe anywhere if you're not safe in the church,'” said Woods.

The lesson to her children is simple.

“God is everywhere,” she said. “You don't stop going to church or stop learning about God just because of one incident.”

For the Rev. Eric Dickey, there is no choice. As a church, you have to be all in, despite fear.

“We will, like most churches now, take more security measures, make sure our doors are secure, locked, just because that's the first reaction,” Dickey said. “At the same time, we have to be transparent. We have to love our fellow brothers and sisters, regardless of what walk of life they come from.”

Two pastors from Coast AME churches have the same attitude.

“It's very alarming with the fact that as pastors, we think that people are coming in to learn, and some way or another, they have a different agenda,” said the Rev. Cornelius Hilliard, Jr., of Greater Mount Zion AME in Pearlington. “The Bible said that no weapon that's formed against us is going to prosper, so we have to be able to trust and believe God through it all.”

Officials in South Carolina are calling the killings a hate crime, but some leaders think it's possible to get beyond the hate.

“Race relations are always hindered by these types of situations,” said the Rev. Cory Watts, of St. Paul AME in Gulfport. “We have to understand it's an isolated incident and we must all work together to improve ourselves, as we are all just trying to make it to heaven.”

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