Simone Moore, the former minister of music at New Welcome Baptist Church in St. Elmo, Ala., came to worship last Sunday armed with a Taser.
According to the Mobile Press-Register, the Rev. Darryl Riley fired Moore, who is also a special education teacher and an R&B singer, and gave him his last check after Sunday service. Moore did not agree with the amount of the check, and an altercation, during which Riley says Moore Tasered him, quickly ensued. Zap.
Several church members, including Agolia Moore, Moore's mother, were involved. Agolia was stabbed by a deacon of the church, according to reports from the sheriff's department. At least two people were taken to a local hospital for treatment.
This was the first Sunday in the month, when Communion is usually served and we ask the Lord to wash all of our sins away as we partake of grape juice and bread. When asked why he had brought the weapon to church, Moore said that he "didn't trust the situation."
I can still hear the church folks of my childhood singing a familiar refrain: "I'm on the battlefield and I'm fighting for the Lord." Sometimes a member in the congregation would whip out a tambourine. If it was a Pentecostal church, there would probably be drums and a steady beat. But never a Taser. While Tasers make a zapping sound, they usually do not blend well musically with a Hammond organ, bass guitar and piano.
This incident is yet another indication that society and church have changed dramatically in recent years. While churches are often regarded as safe havens of fellowship and love, the violence that permeates our neighborhoods can find its way inside what was once considered hallowed ground.
Things have gotten so bad that in 2009, Christianity Today offered some suggestions for responding to church violence. In addition to the more commonsense instructions (like call 911), writer Andrew G. Mills also suggests "throwing hymnals" at the assailant. Now you know. Flying hymnals aside, here are my own tips for how to keep church a violence-free zone.
Leave your Taser at home. No weapons are necessary when going to church for choir practice, usher board meetings, Bible study, worship or other events. The Scripture teaches that Christians should arm themselves with the sword of the spirit. That's the "word of God," not the "Taser of God."
Remember that stabbing is not part of a deacon's job description. If you are called and ordained as a deacon in the church and are serving on the first Sunday, limit yourself to passing out the grape juice and bread. Do not stab the church members, even when they are fighting.
Make the Bible your only weapon. Remember the words of the gospel song made popular by Yolanda Adams: "This battle is not yours, it's the Lord's." In other words, the Lord does not need members of the congregation to show up armed.
Repeat after me: The family that prays together stays together. No one ever said that the family that fights together stays together.
Take the "two wings" approach. You've heard these lyrics if you've been to a black funeral in the past 50 years: "Lord, I want two wings to fly away to heaven, and the world can't do me no harm." Just get out of the way, and you'll be safe.
Denise Stewart is a churchgoing writer in Alabama.