WASHINGTON - Pews across the country will be filled with parishioners on New Year’s Eve. In some instances, they will also be filled with plain-clothed police officers as churches boost security amid an abundance of caution.
The Islamic State is urging followers to attack churches nationwide. The faith community said they are ready to keep parishioners safe.
“When we step into 2017, we are not scared, we are not afraid, we are not shrinking back, but we are moving forward,” said Erica Williams.
She is just one of nearly 2,000 people expected to attend the New Year’s Eve Watch Night service at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Northwest D.C.
“We have security, the MPD is aware, we are mobilizing all the men of the church so that we have crowd control,” said Executive Minister Moya Harris. “The Mighty Men will be here and other organizations such as the Masons will be here. We want to keep everyone safe and everybody to feel like they are safe."
Even if it means people are greeted with metal detectors at the doors of the church.
“I don't mind because if somebody is coming in with a gun, I would rather know,” said Harris. “There will be somebody at the door. They will definitely be security at the door, but there will be people walking around in the crowds just to make sure everybody is safe.”
In posts online, ISIS reportedly called for “bloody celebrations in the Christian New Year.” But faith leaders said they will not be deterred.
“If we are not doing this work, then we are not being a church,” said Clinton Wright, a social justice organizer at Repairers of the Breach. “It's not about worrying about what people are going to do.”
The message from the faith community and at Metropolitan A.M.E. Church is clear – no fear.
It is important to note that U.S. law enforcement reportedly says there are no known specific, credible threats.