MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - After the Emanuel 9 shooting, church leaders were forced to take a closer look at the security plans at their own places of worship, locally and across the nation. We spoke to one local pastor about where church security stands one year later after the deadly shooting.
After June 17, 2015, Church leaders at many churches began locking doors during bible study. They utilized their off-duty officers who were members, and overall, came up with a plan to handle active shooter situations.
Even federal and local law enforcement agencies were dedicated to making sure churches in South Carolina were prepared.
"We're still in the healing process, and of course what happened in Orlando - it opens up old wounds, so it makes us all think about how temporary life is," explains Joseph Washington, Pastor of HOPE Church in Carolina Forest.
Washington says it is still hard to grasp that someone walked into a church and started shooting, but he says it is the reality of the world we live in.
"Every Sunday, I wonder who's coming to church, and while we certainly welcome strangers from all walks of life, I always think that whoever comes in, are we safe?" Washington said..
On Sunday mornings and even Wednesday evenings while preparing to deliver a sermon or a lesson, many pastors must also focus on who is sitting in their pews. Washington explained, "I try to be vigilant, I try to be observant, as well as insightful. I look at the characteristics of the person and watch his or her movement and eyes."
For the past year, South Carolina FBI agents have hosted worship symposiums teaching churches how to prepare and handle potentially violent incidents. Faith leaders law enforcement felt it was necessary to make sure congregations are safe. Washington says after the recent shooting that killed 49 people in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, the training and preparation is still desperately needed.
"The time for that to continue is still ever present, and we cannot allow ourselves to be relaxed about security in our churches," Washington added.
He says even a year after the Charleston shooting, church leaders can't afford to be naive.
"Nobody is safe, wherever you are whether it's in a church or a club, in a school, or a movie theater all of us are vulnerable, and there are no safe places," Washington stated.
But Washington says one thing does remain strong, and safe and that is faith in God. "Even if somebody crazy or fanatical does come in, I have to know and practice actively my faith knowing that God's providence will take care of me," said Washington.