“We won’t throw a rock and hide our hand,” said the Rev. Cordell L. Haynie with intensity as he addressed the congregation.
He said he and the church would not stand for violence, especially as it intruded on the church.
The church, which will soon celebrate its 95th year, heard a sermon on forgiveness and charity, forgiveness of those who have wronged and in return the acceptance of forgiveness by God, a message that meant even more after the shooting.
Haynie said he and his congregation plan to partner with the community, police and local government to clean up the neighborhood he sees as involved in drugs, violence and crime that it resulted in a bullet that hit the church’s storage building. A bullet that, based on its trajectory, would have hit the church right where classrooms are located, had the storage buildings not been there.
“The next step is us sitting down with the mayor and the chief of police and coming together with a comprehensive strategy with the mayor, the chief of police, the members of this church and the entire community in order to clean up and help eliminate a lot of violence, a lot of unstructured behavior, to try and conform to what good citizens are,” Haynie said. “It’s going to take not just one entity, but it’s the entire city of Lebanon – the mayor, the chief of police and us as a community – as a whole.”
Gilbert Seay, a Second Baptist Church deacon, has been a member his entire life – 77 years. He said he has never seen problems like this until recently.
“When I was a child, it was peaceful out here. But now in the last year it has really changed,” Seay said. “I hope one day that all this stuff will be over with – I’m just praying for that.”
Haynie said he’d want to inject faith and wisdom into those involved in the shooting if he were to get the chance.
“First of all, I would let them know that God loves them. Regardless of what we do in this life, he loves us, and Christ hates our sins, but He loves the saint. He loves us as people. Secondly, I would let them know that there is a better way of life, and that better way of life is with Christ. With Christ we live – Without Christ, we exist. Thirdly, I would let them know that if they do not know Christ, then they don’t really know what love really is because his love is unconditional,” Haynie said. “Morals, character and respect mean much in this life.
“We could be having a funeral today. I could be visiting someone in the hospital or someone could be grieving.”
The bullet hole is small. It might get missed without knowledge of where it is. The storage building sits beside the church on a plot of land where a fence is under construction. There are plans to build a community learning center and playground in about five years, a place to keep out the bad and let the good take root. Outside the church grounds, the black rubber skid marks from the drive-by shooting stretch down the road.
Haynie said some members are still shaken up by the incident, but it’s clear the congregation refuses to live in fear.
“We want us to stand up together. I don’t need anybody with me who’s going to hide behind something, throw the rock, and going to try and hide your hand. Now, if you’re going to be with me, you’re going to stand behind me, or you’re going to stand on the side of me, and we’re going to march together. That’s what Jesus said. That’s what He told His disciples,” Haynie said. “Our church is in it for the long haul.”