Early one February morning in Alco, Ga., three men approached the Oak Grove Christian Methodist Episcopal Church under the shelter of darkness. For 124 years, the wooden frame church stood proudly as a monument to the efforts of the slaves who erected it, as well as to the community that it served.
Without regard for its history or its present contributions to the community, the three men deliberately set the church on fire. By the time Pastor Rutha Jackson arrived, just before dawn, Oak Grove Church was completely destroyed.
As tragic as this story is, it is anything but unique. According to numbers released by the Congress of National Black Churches Inc. (CNBC), since Jan. 1, 1995, more than 630 American churches have been victimized by arsonists. The majority of these crimes have targeted predominantly African-American denominations.
As a testament to the power of community and good will, many of these churches are being rebuilt. But are they being rebuilt just to be burned down again?
With the aid being provided to these churches by the security industry’s recently formed SAINTS program, hopefully the answer is a resounding “No.”
The acronym SAINTS stands for Safety, Awareness and Independence Now Through Security. Currently, the coalition is comprised of the members of five prominent security industry groups: Security Industry Association (SIA), National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA), Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) and International Association of Professional Security Consultants (IAPSC).
Through the SAINTS program, member companies will be providing CNBC-identified churches with fire and burglar alarm system equipment, installation, monitoring and professional consulting and education, all free of charge. According to Ron Spiller, SAINTS founder and executive director of SIA, the program is expected to run for approximately five years.
‘SAINTS’ Provide Security
SAINTS founder, Ron Spiller, says that his interest was peaked after reading an airline magazine.
“I read about how much these churches meant to the communities they were in, and that most of them were used for much more than just houses of worship,” says Spiller. “They were daycare centers, polling places, general meeting places, and in some cases, learning centers for the community.”
So, in June of this year, Spiller met with Dr. Niathan Allen, CNBC’s project manager of the arson prevention program, and proposed the formation of the altruistic industry coalition, which would provide security against fire and intruders. When Allen supported the idea, Spiller returned to his office and contacted the heads of NBFAA, CSAA and ASIS, and the program took flight.
Individual Companies Share Responsibilities
Since the SAINTS roster represents all elements of the security industry, the program is thorough in providing complete security services to the participating churches.
SIA is coordinating the effort by serving as the primary contact between CNBC and the coalition. SIA members will be providing the burglar and fire alarm equipment to be installed in the CNBC selected churches.
Oak Grove Church is the first of the initial 29 churches slated to be equipped under the SAINTS program. At press time, the security system was in the process of being installed.