Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Is Your Sanctuary Safe?

This is a question that needs asking. What can church leaders do? A quick scan of the web located a few articles of interest:

Sanctuary Safety: Not Even Churches Are Off-Limits to Violence


At Grace Baptist Church in West Valley City, pastor Matt Johnson makes sure it's men who stand at the back of the church to not only greet and usher but to simply be a presence that could deter crime or protect the congregation if need be.

Churches Call On Congregations, Consultants in Efforts to Curb Crime

“We definitely tightened security a lot after 9/11,” said Pam Gladstone , the executive director of Congregation Beth El in Norfolk.

Beth El hires off-duty police officers to stand guard at all worship services and gatherings. Outer doors are always locked, and admission tickets issued by the synagogue are required for high holy day events. If a disturbance breaks out in the sanctuary, Rabbi Arthur Ruberg can trip a silent alarm that summons police, Gladstone said.

Colorado Shootings Reflect Big Threats At Big Churches

In the case of most random shootings—a deranged gunman looking to make a statement—some observers said there is only so much churches can do. Dave Travis, the managing director of Leadership Network, a Dallas-based megachurch think tank, noted that the mother of Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed in 1974 as she sat at the church organ.

"The security threat of a crazed person—there's just no way to totally prepare for that," he said.
Leader's Insight: Security Against Shooters

Situational crime expert Ronald Clarke outlined these steps for avoiding an active-shooter incident:

  • Increase early identification. A person with a gun drawn is an obvious threat. But attitude or body language can also suggest a threat. Greeters or church staff should extend a personal greeting to anyone who looks suspicious.
  • Limit access. A shooter will likely arrive after the service begins. Close sanctuary doors once a service begins and train ushers to meet latecomers and guide them to designated seating areas.
  • Reduce provocation. Train ushers to deny access, firmly but respectfully, to people who are unstable, agitated, angry, or intoxicated.
    Church Security Alliance

    The Church Security Alliance is an online community of pastors and laymen and women who have a shared concern for the safety and well-being of their congregation.

    When you sign up to be a member, you have access to training videos, podcasts, articles, newsfeeds, forums, and more. We recognize every church has different needs dependent upon location and size, and a cookie-cutter solution isn't what you need. Church Security Alliance exists to help regular folks develop critical skills to assist you protect your church, to stay informed regarding church security incidents throughout the world, and to stay sharp.

    5 comments:

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. I understand the concern in the light of these events, but I'm not sure what one can really do to protect people from random, crazy acts that come out of the blue like that. They can happen in church, they happen on the street--they can happen anywhere. For example, a crazy driver in San Francisco a year or two ago started mowing down people on the sidewalk for no apparent reason. People died just for being on the sidewalk at the wrong time. Sidewalks aren't truly safe, then, and neither are churches. But here's the thing--is there any such thing as total safety?

      Maybe it's because I live in earthquake country that I am particularly aware of the way that random events can come crashing down on people's lives. I also become accutely aware of this when my mother was killed in a traffic accident several years ago. Tens of thousands of people are killed on the roads every years, and yet, despite that carnage, most of us don't give any thought to getting in our cars and driving.

      I'm not saying that we should not be concerned about this issue, but at the same time it was very rare and very random and I wonder if it is possible to get too obsessed about achieving an illusive goal of perfect safety, when at the same time churches are (or I think ought to be) open and welcoming institutions.

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    3. Mystical,

      The only part that is random is who is going to get hit. The fact that someone is going to get hit is the natural consequence of hate mongering brought about by certain religious circles.

      Religion always draws the crazies out. The only question is what crazies do you want to draw out?

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    4. Jodie, I agree totally that hate-mongering fosters this kind of thing

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    5. "I'm not saying that we should not be concerned about this issue, but at the same time it was very rare and very random and I wonder if it is possible to get too obsessed about achieving an illusive goal of perfect safety, when at the same time churches are (or I think ought to be) open and welcoming institutions."

      Well said. Thanks!

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