Starting Monday, Nov. 6, until sunset on Thursday, Nov. 9, the U.S. flag and the Hawaii state flag are being flown at half-staff at the Hawaii State Capitol, all state offices and agencies, and the Hawaii National Guard.
Their lowering honors the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
“I extend my deepest condolences to the grieving families who lost loved ones at the mass shooting in a church in Texas and continue to pray for the recovery of those wounded,” said Gov. David Ige.
For some here in Hawaii, the shooting in Texas has hit close to home as they attended church services themselves.
We talked to Pastor Jimmy Hutcherson who is from Northeast Texas.
Hutcherson grew up in a rural church community just like Sutherland Springs and tells us for those people church is the center of life. As a church leader, he can’t imagine the kind of devastation that has hit this small town.
“Overwhelming sadness. I heard about it just a few minutes before I left for my own church service and if you’re a pastor of a small church and you hear news like that obviously it affects you,” Pastor Hutcherson said.
Hutcherson leads a small group of his own at First Christian Church of Honolulu in Makiki.
He tells us like most churches, doors are always open to anyone who wants to come in. Usually the audience has their backs turned against the main entrance to face the pulpit.
“Almost every church has an entrance when you come into the rear of the church,” Hutcherson explained. “We live in a world now that includes lots of risks. I know many churches on the mainland, not here, but they have armed security guards standing in the lobby.”
While many churches determine their own kind of security measures, Chris Martin — Executive Director of the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention — tells us it’s difficult to prepare for a tragedy like the Texas mass shooting.
“We never can protect against that fully. We never can be prepared for that even as relatively safe as we know Hawaii to be,” Martin said. “But I think our churches are going to continue to reach out to those communities to be welcoming to continue to remain as open and as engaging as possible.”
“It behooves us to take a look at everything we can. We want to make sure that a church is a safe place. Spiritually safe, emotionally safe, and physically safe,” Hutcherson said.