South Carolina shooting hits home for Knoxville African-American church

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Churches across the nation and here in East Tennessee are praying for victims and families in the South Carolina shooting.

Overcoming Believers Church is a predominantly African-American church in Knoxville. The incident has hit home for members of the congregation.

Related coverage: Charleston Shooting

“We’re an African-American church. We have weekly service at night. Hearing about this put some fear in me initially. What if it happens here?” said Kimberly Watkins, a church member for 12 years.

“It alarmed me because what took place there could have easily taken place here. It’s going to be a really difficult thing to get over across the country,” said Overcoming Believers Church Pastor Daryl Arnold.

Pastor Arnold says in this day and age, churches like theirs already have security measures in place.

Overcoming Believers Church Pastor Daryl Arnold
Overcoming Believers Church Pastor Daryl Arnold

“We have men and women, who part of their ministry is to watch out for things that happen,” he explained, saying they keep watch for anything out of the ordinary.

Charleston is a reminder that incidents can still happen.

“We’re going to pray for them. It’s a blow, not just for our congregation, this is going to have a ripple effect at churches all across the country, and all across the world,” Pastor Arnold said.

He’s certain the victims in this church shooting are in a better place.

“I believe those people that died while in prayer are in Heaven right now. My Bible teaches us they died as martyrs and are celebrating in Heaven,” Pastor Arnold said.

Members like Watkins say it will be a while before they recover from what happened.

“Sitting in service, I’ll probably be a little more watchful at first. That’s what you think at the beginning. But it’ll wear off,” Watkins said.

A vigil is being held at Westside Unitarian Universalist Church on Sunday, June 21, to remember the victims of the shooting in Charleston and to share memories of the shooting at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in 2008. The vigil will be at 6 p.m at the church, 616 Fretz Road in Knoxville.

A community prayer vigil is being held with the assistance of Pastor Arnold and OBC on Monday, June 22, at 6 p.m. at Bethel AME Church, 3811 Boyd’s Bridge Pike.

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