“No one saw this coming,” said Rev. Kenneth Giles during an Aug. 3 press conference outside of the Second Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church, 5729 W. Chicago Ave., in Austin.
The previous Sunday, the church was the unlikely site of what the Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of the Greater St. John Bible Church in Austin, called an “unfathomable and “unacceptable act.”
Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st), who convened the press conference with Giles’s blessings, said the tragedy “underscores the serious need for resources” to address mental health challenges and gun violence.
On July 31, as she was leaving an afternoon service at the Chicago Ave. church, Trinyce L. Sanders-Wilson, 40, was shot to death by Roshaun D. Wilson, 38, who afterwards fatally shot himself.
Giles, the church’s pastor, said the married couple from suburban Broadview may have been estranged at the time. They were both longtime members of the church, as were both of their families. Sanders-Wilson, the pastor said, sang in the young adult choir and helped in the kitchen during church meals. She had five children.
“I was inside when I heard shots fired,” Giles said of the shooting. “I heard screaming and rushed out. It was 20 minutes after service had ended.”
One resident who lives a block away from the church, near Iowa and Massasoit, said when he heard the shots, he walked down to Chicago Ave. and saw the victims on the ground.
“It’s sad,” said the man, who simply goes by Mr. Marvin. “It’s truly sad. This block is one of the quietist blocks in the community.”
Marvin said a big reason for the sense of tranquility is Mount Olive, which he said has been an anchoring presence in the neighborhood for as long as he can remember.
Founded in 1956 by Rev. James Bass, the church moved to its current location on Chicago Ave. in 1980, according to a history on the church’s website. Giles, who has pastored the church since 2002, has presided over numerous social service programs — including a clothing distribution ministry and annual Christmas basket and gift program. In 2004, the church was the Austin host site for the city’s Summer Nutrition Enrichment Program.
“A line has been crossed when a person shoots someone coming out of the house of God,” said Acree, who added that the “sanctity and sanctuary of the church was violated.”
“This could’ve been my church,” he said.
Giles said he wasn’t familiar with Wilson’s mental history and said that the man had been to the church within a month of the shooting.
“As far as I’m concerned, they’re both victims,” said Giles. “The brother loved his family. He loved his children.”
Giles said he’s been overwhelmed “with the show of love demonstrated toward this church during this time” and that his main focus, in the days since the tragedy, has been to be “a shepherd to this community and to this family.”
Then, just before walking into his church to convene a prayer vigil for family and community members, Giles began reciting some of the words of old hymns and scriptures that he said will be dispatched to comfort his flock.
“Although there may be weeping for the night, joy will come in the morning,” went one. “By and by, we’ll understand it better by and by,” went another.