GAINESVILLE, Ga. - A special Sunday service was held at the Bethel A.M.E Church in Gainesville after a 16-year-old’s plot to murder church members was foiled.
Bishop Reginald T. Jackson visited the church and told members not to be afraid to worship. Members of the community also lined the street and stood outside the church holding signs saying "Hate will not be tolerated in Gainesvile."
Congregants said they wanted to come to church to show their strength. Even those who do not usually attend showed their love and support for the church.
"That girl, she is not the face of Gainesville," said Alana Watkins. "Love is the face of Gainesville."
Love, not fear, was the main message the bishop wanted worshippers to bring home.
"If they are afraid, that makes those who would seek to hurt us or kill us victorious. So, therefore, we've got to be bold enough to defy them," said Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, the presiding prelate of the sixth Episcopal district of the A.M.E. Church.
The bishop added that he hopes the church will add security and that the young woman will be charged as an adult.
"Forgiveness does not mean no consequences," said Jackson.
While he was speaking, the bishop told members of the church he plans to meet with lawmakers over the next several weeks to draft up legislation to help fight back against hate crimes in Georgia.