Ernest Smith is the Lead Pastor at Front Range Christian Church in Castle Rock

Having deep roots in Charleston, South Carolina, the recent tragedy at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church hit home for some residents. It was only two years ago that Ernest Smith, Lead Pastor at Front Range Christian Church, along with several staff members, relocated to Castle Rock from a Charleston suburb, to start a local church plant.

“I had interacted with that church to ask them if we could use their facility for our college ministry,” Smith continued, “They were of the few places that said yes. You could tell that they were clearly a generous church.”

That short interaction, along with feeling a pull on their hearts as a congregation, encouraged leaders at Front Range to want to help with the relief efforts in Charleston. Smith said, “We as a church, having so many ties there, felt inclined to help out – there is nothing that divides us as a church.”

From over 1,700 miles away, their first response was to give financial help. Imagining the effects of an event like this, Smith and the church thought about the chain of physical and emotional devastation felt by the people of Charleston. “There lots of help that is needed – everything from repairing the sanctuary to keeping the church afloat while they find new pastors, new staff and new help. We just wanted to step in however we could.”

Smith also keeps in close contact with Seacoast Church, where he ministered for 16 years as well as with the friends and family still living there. “The church I was a part of is the largest in Charleston and their response has been incredible,” shared Smith, “Everything from food drives to help the victims families, giving financial help, being there during the bond hearings for the families and going to the funerals.”

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, South Carolina
Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, South Carolina

Because rather than what the gunman intended with his hateful act, instead, he caused something positive to happen. “There is a long history of racism in Charleston. That guy was trying to start a racial war, but he actually did the opposite. He brought people together; at the end of the day that’s what Charleston is – it’s a unified city.”

Locally, he has seen parishioners express their support and want to get involved with keeping people safe who attend Front Range. “After this happened, there were a lot of members who stepped up to want to serve to protect our passion. We have a pretty solid security team that could step into action if they needed to.”

Though they are prepared for anything to happen, Smith doesn’t want that to set the tone for his church. And they don’t want fear to hinder those from coming to a place of worship. “We can’t live our lives in fear because we react out of that fear and treat people differently and guard against people; choosing not to meet our neighbors, make new friendships and come out of our comfort zone,” he added, “We need community.”

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