Shooting raises security concerns

Mourners participate in a candlelight vigil for the victims of a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas. ~AP photo/Darren Abate

As prayers continue for shooting victims, churches raise questions about their own safety.

KAY DEMOSS
Senior Editor-Writer, Michigan Area

 

‘twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.

A beloved hymn captures some of the gut-wrenching, yes, wretched emotions that have gripped the country, churchgoer and non-churchgoer alike, since the November 5 massacre at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Dangers. Outrage. Fear. Disbelief. Anguish. Where does one start to sort out what a responsible Christian ought to do next?

Perhaps a place to start is with United Methodist pastors who were there within hours of the shooting.

Rev. Peter Aguilar pastors Floresville United Methodist Church, ten miles from Sutherland Springs. “I know the sheriff, so I called him and said, ‘Do you need me?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’”

Aguilar told United Methodist News Service that he spent the afternoon counseling on the scene and then pulled together an evening service in Floresville that gave people a chance to be together and share their anger and grief. “We sang and prayed and read Psalm 17,” Aguilar said. “When I don’t know where else to go, I go to the Psalms.”

The Rev. Steven Curry, the pastor of Wilson County’s La Vernia UMC, spoke at a prayer vigil Sunday evening in Sutherland Springs. “I talked about hope for tomorrow, that tomorrow we’ll continue to build the kingdom of God, continue to be people of faith, continue to spread good news and not let the forces of evil and destruction get to us.”

Sam Hodges’ report, “Pastors become chaplains after church massacre,” can be found at this link. Rev. Stephen Curry shared additional thoughts on the pages of The New York Times. Read what he says  about “Living, Loving, and Dying in Church.”

The day after the tragedy at First Baptist Church, the President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Russell Moore, offered words of perspective and hope in an article published in The Washington Post: “Why Church Shootings Don’t Intimidate the Church.” Click here to read.

As praying and grieving and analysis continue, congregations are asking practical questions about their security.

The Michigan State Police will offer training, “Security Issues for Places of Worship,” on Thursday, December 14, 2017, from 9 am to 4 pm at the Michigan State Police Training Academy, 7426 N. Canal Road, Lansing, MI 48913. Cost is $100. Click here for additional information and registration. Deadline to register is December 1.

United Methodist pastor and ministry coach, Rebekah Simon-Peter, shares insights from a police officer turned pastor in this Ministry Matters feature, “Churches and Gun Violence: 7 practical preparation tips.” Read more.

Church Mutual Insurance Company offers a detailed strategy for “Protecting your Congregation Against an Active Shooter.” Access their pdf here.

Brad Burns is the Security Team Leader at Cornerstone United Methodist Church, Caledonia. He also is the Executive Director of the West Michigan Church Security Network. He points interested persons to the West Michigan Church Security Network website for additional information about seminars on safety and security: www.wmcsn.org.

As congregation’s take practical steps toward developing a security plan, they may also consider standing against gun violence. Click here for official United Methodist positions and a list of actions to take that may help prevent future tragedies. 

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