FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – More than 250 clergy members from across the Pee Dee met Wednesday morning at the Florence Center to learn more about church security.
Clergy members from Florence, Marion and Williamsburg counties were given a 40-page pamphlet filled with checklists to secure churches in rural areas.
The Florence County Sheriff’s office put together the meeting after 26 people were killed at a church in Texas last month.
”Training overcomes fear,” explained Wayne Freeman, SLED active shooter coordinator. “If you accept that violence can happen to you, it is statistically less likely to happen to you.”
Florence County Chief Deputy Glen Kirby says clergy members should create an emergency plan.
“They need to have a plan in place. To welcome people [yet] notice if they have a stranger to show up. They still need to welcome them to church but they also need to be aware of their surroundings and be ready in case something does happen. They need to be ready to handle it there,” said Kirby. “The average response time is three minutes. Three minutes it’s over. They need to know what to do to protect themselves as we’re coming to them as quick as we can.”
Deputies are available to give security recommendations.
Lee Wiggins, military veteran and pastor of the Church Of God of The Firstborn, says the Charleston church shooting moved him to take action.
“I cried, to know someone would go to a church and kill people, and, as a pastor, I feel an obligation to protect my church,” said Wiggins with tears in his eyes.
His congregation agreed to buy weapons and train qualified members to serve as security.
“One hundred percent was in favor of protecting the church. One hundred percent,” said Wiggins.
A big takeaway for Delores J. Wilson the Assistant Clerk and Sunday School Teacher at Mount Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church in Marion was security for children.
“Most of our children and Sunday school is upstairs on the second level. If something happens, they are up there,” said Wilson.
Wilson says her church in Marion has a security system but now they need security upstairs.
“Things can happen on the bottom level [and] we’d know nothing about it, we’re on the top level. Children are our future, so we need them,” said Wilson.
The Florence County Sheriff’s office says it was important to get the information out before Christmas since Christmas Eve falls on Sunday this year.