Area Pastor weighs-in on Charleston shooting

Question and answer session between Rev. Darrin Harvey of First United Church of Christ and Group Editor Chris Pugh

Q: What’s your reaction to the shooting?

A: I am horrified about these shootings. I was dismayed to turn on the news this morning to be greeted by this story.I think these crimes are particularly egregious in places people expect to be safe; namely schools and churches.

I believe that most people ought to have a right to own a firearm but in the case of churches and schools I personally like to see those buildings remain “weapon free”. That being said posting a sign on the door, like our church does, is not going to prevent a disturbed person like this from committing these kinds of atrocities. Preventing these kinds of things ultimately comes down to focusing on remedies of the heart, soul and mind of individuals and of our communities as a whole.

This case has many levels; race, gun violence and mental illness all of which no doubt will be talked about ad-nauseam in the coming week on the cable news circuit until the next sensational headline drives it away. What is most tragic is that I fear we will continue to see these types of things happen until we address these three things as systemic issues that need comprehensive approaches. Reactionary attitudes and band aid legislation politicize the issues with more tragedy as the consequence.

It grieves me that in 2015, we are still a very deeply divided society on the basis of race and that there are people with extreme attitudes for those whose skin is different willing enough to commit murder solely on that basis. When churches become crime scenes it hits a community at it’s heart. There is an unfortunate history in this country of “black” churches being targets for hate crimes adding to the dynamic of this case. I pray for the families of the victims who were probably caught so off guard. I pray for their church family and the whole community. I suspect that this young man probably has an untreated mental illness. So I pray for him, and for those in a similar state of mind that they might get the help they need.

Q: Do you plan on discussing this during Sunday’s sermon?

A: I don’t happen to be preaching on Sunday, but I will talk about it before our morning prayer and pray publicly about it this week and for a few weeks to come. I might mention it in a future sermon on the 28th or in July, I am not sure yet.

Q: How big of a issue is church security these days?

A: Church security is an issue. In a place like Galion it is less so than some of the places I have been on staff. They range from downtown Dayton where we had a volunteer off duty police officer roaming the halls, Stockton,California where we were routinely broken into, to very small towns where people routinely leave their front doors unlocked. In a perfect world, I would love to see the church open 24/7 so people can come in and pray literally at any time. It is sad to me that we as churches feel we have to spend a good deal of money on sophisticated security systems that could be used some other way. I would dislike having an armed officer on duty during worship or for any meetings. Since the beginning of the Christian movement, Christians have often been targets of violence. However, if there was any place where there should be another solution other than meeting violence with violence it should be the church. In response to this I think that churches should focus on dialogue between people with differences and meeting the needs of those with mental illness. More security will not change people for the better nor is it guaranteed to prevent something like this from happening again.