Columbus church leaders call for prayer and security after mass - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Columbus church leaders call for prayer and security after mass shooting in Charleston

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

Music and prayer filled St. John AME Church in Fort Mitchell during a vigil Thursday night as a crowd there called for peace.

Reverend Maurice Wright II believes this tragic act of violence came out of a lack of respect for the church.

He hopes the community will come together during this time of need to put an end to hate crimes.

"It is not a time of retaliation. It is a time for us, as the mother and fathers of the church did, and go on bended knee and talk to God and ask for God's intervention," explains Wright.

There was a visible police presence at the different vigils held throughout the day in the Chattahoochee Valley.

In a speech Thursday, President Obama expressed his frustration about the restrictions on who can buy firearms.

"We don't have all the facts, but we do know that once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun," says Obama.

As questions arise about church security, leaders in the valley believe weapons still belong outside.

"Once you allow people to come in with concealed weapons, you know their state of mind and you are defenseless," explains Pastor Charlie Sanders of Liberty Hill Missionary Baptist Church.

Along with security systems and cameras, several local churches hire sheriff's deputies and armed, off-duty officers to be on guard during Sunday services and bible studies.

"Times are bad. As a pastor, I feel the need to make sure my parishioners are protected, as well as myself. I want to go home at the end of the day like everybody else," says Wright.

"Why would God allow that? We don't know at this moment, but we know at the end there's a plan God has got," explains Sanders.

According to national news outlets, this was President Obama's 14th statement on a mass shooting since taking office.

The alleged shooter from the Charleston massacre, Dylann Roof, is expected to have a bond hearing on Friday, and will be charged with nine counts of murder.

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