Church Security in this Troubled Time

This morning (Monday, April 29) on NPR, I was listening to an interview after dropping the kids off to school. The interview was with a rabbi in San Diego, a colleague of the rabbi at a local synagogue who was shot and injured on Saturday in the latest racist/anti-Semitic or politically motivated shooting. The NPR interviewer asked the rabbi if people should be concerned now about gathering at churches, mosques, and synagogues. The rabbi responded that instead of being concerned about gathering for worship, we should be concerned about the fact that these kinds of acts of hate directed toward religious people are seemingly on the rise, and that guns escalate that hate and violence, so instead of being concerned about gathering for worship, what we should be concerned about is making it safe to gather for worship.
I was interviewed about this topic by KJRH last week as a response to the horrendous bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday took the lives of so many. Christchurch, Pittsburg, Southerland Springs, and Charleston, along with hate-filled acts of vandalism against black churches in Louisiana and various places in Oklahoma City are reminders that hate has a powerful grip on the minds and actions of people. We must not only be preventive in our action to ward off such hate, but we must give voice to the righteousness and justice that God expects of us.
“We have this motto it’s “open hearts, open minds, open doors.” We learned in that seminar one of the most effective methods of protecting yourself in this kind of tragedy is by just making sure your doors are locked,” Reverend Nathan Mattox said.
In the wake of recent violence Mattox created a map of prayer: adding a pin to Sri Lanka on Sunday.
At a seminar that our Council Oak District hosted in the wake of Southerland Springs this time last year, a representative from the Department for Home-land Security gave Martha and Harvey Humes and me some training on how to make our worship space more secure. One of the best deterrents to these kinds of crimes is simply locking doors during the time of worship. We immediately began locking the west door to the building during the time of worship, but we could probably stand to improve our security by locking the east door as well and rely on our ushers to let people in who might be arriving late to worship. Yes, the new practice led to an inconvenience a couple times as far as I heard, but it was a recommendation to keep our congregation safer during worship. Another item I have been somewhat resistant to implement because it is difficult to get information across to everyone in an effective manner (and not needlessly scare children who are in our midst) is to visualize your response should there ever be a person with violent intentions infiltrating our worship service. Such visualization should be how to most quickly exit the building.
We are fortunate in that we are patrolled by TU security on a frequent basis. We have called TU security for support when issues have arisen in the past, and they quickly respond. Many churches have to pay for a service like this. We benefit from a good relationship with our neighbor, the University of Tulsa, and therefore we have this kind of security for no cost to us. This month, I’ll be making sure our team of ushers has the proper information on how to respond to a suspicion or threat in real time so that we can know we are secure when we have gathered for worship. It is a sad fact that such preparations are necessary, but we have pledged to “resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever form they may present themselves.”