Denver Pastor: Charleston Tragedy Has ‘Pulled Communities Together’

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<p>(Lee Strubinger/For CPR News)</p>
<p>Rev. Timothy Tyler, center, of Shorter Community A.M.E. Church, prays with his congregation Thursday night, June 18, 2015.</p>
Photo: Rev. Timothy Tyler
Rev. Timothy Tyler, center, of Shorter Community A.M.E. Church prays with his congregation Thursday night, June 18, 2015.

Funeral services concluded this week for the victims of the shooting at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Members of its sister parish in Denver, Shorter Community A.M.E. Church, are still grieving. That includes Rev. Timothy Tyler who told CPR News’ Jo Ann Allen that he’s hopeful that some good can come from the tragedy.

Below is a transcript of their conversation.

What good have you seen come from this?

"​We've seen a situation that was designed to divide people actually bring people together. Last Sunday, we had two Jewish congregations worship with us and we also had a white non-denominational congregation come to our church with about 125 of their members and I don't think we've seen anything like that in our history. And so, we've just seen how this tragedy has pulled communities together. And has made people of all races really stop to be intentional about caring for each other."

Are your members fearful or frightened?

"I was in Bible study last week and someone asked me if the window on the pastor's office is bulletproof. I've gotten emails from persons saying you need a bodyguard, we need more security. So they absolutely are concerned about how we handle security at the church. We'll have that conversation and of course, some things we'll talk about and some things we won't. It's not very secure if everybody knows what your security is. We certainly are conscientious and aware that we've got to balance keeping our people safe. But at the same time, the church has to be a place of faith, open and welcoming to everybody. We call it a sanctuary, so of course it has to safe because that's what sanctuaries are. And at the same time, we have to be faithful and we have to trust God."

Can you tell me about the young man you met at the church?

"Maybe two or three days ago, a young man came and rang the doorbell of the church and I happened to be there. No one else was around, so I went to get the door. And it was a young man -- he seemed a bit weary and physically tired. He was explaining to me that he was homeless and that he had come by the church the day before. Someone had given him a Bible. He had a little backpack on -- a little book bag on his back -- and he went into the bag to get the Bible. And for a moment I think I got a little nervous about standing at the door with someone I didn't know who was reaching into his backpack. That kind of unnerved me a little bit."

In the last few days, a number of Southern black churches have been destroyed by fire. What does that tell you?

"We're just in a time in our country where the Black Church has once again become a target of racist behavior. And I think that people understand that historically the Black Church has been the foundation of the black community. ... We're just in a dangerous and sad period of our country and our world."