A recent church shooting in Selma, AL confirms the need for increased security within religious institutions. This past Sunday, James Junior Minter opened fire at Oasis Tabernacle Church hitting his ex-girlfriend, their newborn child, and the church’s pastor. The shooting took place while the congregation gathered for morning worship. The 26-year-old was sitting on the front row next with two of his victims when he fired the shots. Members wrestled the gun away from him before he could target any others, but his actions confirm that churches are in need of a solid security team at every service.
Minter fled the scene but was later arrested and is being held without bond at Dallas County Jail. District Attorney Michael Jackson praised the pastor for interceding and congregants for helping wrestle the gun away. Although unfortunate, this represents a shameful commentary on society when worshippers are forced to be on guard in a place meant to be a sanctuary. Churches today must be prepared for a variety of emergencies and threats by having an internal security team and not relying solely on the local police department. According to Jeff Hawkins, the executive director of the Christian Security Network:
A church is not helpless when they have a plan, and properly trained security. Shooters or anyone else intent on harming church members can be stopped with the proper security measures in place.
It is sometimes difficult to convince leaders and congregants on the importance of church security. Many believe that God will protect his house so there is no need to worry. Some leaders are convinced that a security team will cause congregants to feel threatened unnecessarily when the local police force is sufficient to handle such measures. However, with church incursions on the incline it is time for religious institutions to be prepared to protect when the need arises. This is not a new concept, throughout the Bible God has utilized his warriors to fight battles and protect the people.
A well-prepared security plan, with a variety of contingencies, needs to be established in order for this to take place. Once a system is in place, a team can be formed. There is no such thing as a perfect defense team, however, those selected should be trained and ready to provide the best response possible. A basic strategy for setting up a team is the P.R.I.D.E. concept. The PRIDE acronym is outlined as follows:
• Prevention: This requires closing gaps within security, pre-planning for emergencies, and spending funds for safety equipment.
• Recognition: The team will be better equipped to recognize and deal with emergencies and intrusions when they are properly trained to develop an alert and suspicious mindset.
• Interdiction: Utilizing proper strategies to allow security personnel and equipment to intervene and insulate the congregation from violent or otherwise disruptive behavior.
• Disruption: The team may be able to disrupt, interrupt and/or forestall an intended attack by incorporating all of the above.
• Emergency Response: Even after implementing the above strategies, situations will occur which the team has not planned for, hence the need for trained emergency personnel on hand.
In the recent shooting at Oasis Tabernacle Church, members acted quickly and averted any killings. Minter who had joined the worship experience pulled out a handgun and fired away, striking his ex in the shoulder and jaw, their one-month-old son in the hand and the pastor, Earl Carswell, was shot in the leg as he tried to intervene. Minter’s victims were rushed to the hospital and all survived, but as was witnessed in the Charleston shooting which claimed the life of nine victims, the outcome could have been much worse. This type of behavior confirms the need for increased security within religious institutions.
Churches can no longer sit idly or prayerfully by, instead common sense must prevail. Yes, religious organizations are created for people to come together for a corporate worship experience, but this should not mean families have to be exposed to unnecessary risks. There must be a plan in place so that the proper balance exists between security and preaching the Gospel. In hopes of the best possible outcome security must be implemented by design, not default.
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
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Inside Image Courtesy of Ken Wilcox – Flickr License