People gather to march in Ferguson, Mo. on Aug. 15, 2014. Photo courtesy of Loavesofbread/Wikimedia Commons/RNS.
After a prayer service outside her church turned violent last month, the Rev. Teresa Danieley, pastor of St. John’s Tower Grove, allowed those trying to escape the demonstrations to enter her church.
Now, Danieley and dozens of other clergy members are preparing to once again offer their churches as safe spaces, or sanctuaries.
The grand jury decision on whether to indict Darren Wilson, the officer who fatally shot African-American teenager Michael Brown, is expected by the end of the month, potentially triggering further civil unrest. Clergy anticipate some might seek refuge in churches, whether to escape violence or find fellowship.
Organizations such as the Don’t Shoot Coalition, which was formed after the death of Brown, and Metropolitan Congregations United, a group of interdenominational, multiracial congregations from around the region, are in the process of creating a list of churches that are volunteering the use of their space. Many of these churches will be packed with supplies such as food, water, and phone chargers. Medics, legal observers and counselors will also be on hand.
Some believe that unless officers are needed in an emergency, churches should also function as police-free zones during protests.