It was a rainy Sunday morning in Ferguson, Mo., as Rev. Tommie Pierson greeted parishioners at his weekly church service in Greater St. Mark Family Church. These days, locals are coming in for more than a sermon. They’re looking to him for guidance in the wake of an imminent grand-jury decision on the case of Michael Brown, who was shot to death by police Darren Wilson in August. The community is on edge pondering whether Wilson will be indicted or not, and how protesters will react in either case.
“My hope is that nothing will happen,” says Pierson. “That a decision will come and it doesn’t matter whether it’s to indict or not to indict. That people will understand that that’s just the battle. It is not the war. It is not the end-all.”
Still, St. Mark is prepared for the battle. Pierson has set up a safe haven in the church’s basement with a capacity for 200 people in case violent protests break out. He’s gathered water, food and extra power outlets for people to recharge their phones.
He says he never thought he would find himself in this position, but since Brown was shot on August 9th, pastors have played a pivotal role in looking out for the community.
St. Mark is one of 17 locations organized under the Metropolitan Clergy Coalition of St Louis to become sanctuaries for Ferguson residents.
Rayner Ramirez, Angela Barajas, and Douglas Forte contributed to this report.