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The recent Charleston massacre has caused churches around the globe to increase security measures. Many religious organizations already have security measures in place but have since sought ways to enhance what already exists. Other churches, in times past, operated under the “God is my refuge” model, but have decided to add a physical aspect to their spiritual ideal.
Dylann Roof has made it painfully obvious that churches can no longer take the safety of those who gather for worship to the moral standards of the past. Morality has shifted and taken respect for authority with it. Respect for life has long been low on the priority scale and, unfortunately, the targets of choice are creeping into faith-based institutions.
Minister Claude Parent of First Baptist Norfolk Church was horrified by the attack on the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in South Carolina. Parent said the actions of the shooter have brought the issue of church security into the limelight and churches have to do what is necessary to protect its members. He added:
We tend to side on being merciful, but the bottom line is that we have to make sure that the people who come to worship are protected.
At First Baptist, Parent explained, other than during regular church service times or during a big event, anyone who enters the church has to be buzzed in. There are also select “professionally trained” members of the congregation who bring their gun to church with them. According to the minister, it is imperative that religious institutions become more diligent in the area of security. First Baptist has several security cameras which can be viewed from his cell phone at any time. They also have a code word in place that would immediately put the building on lockdown if announced over the loud-speaker.
Bob Chauncey of the Church Security Institute said he has helped several churches in Virginia Beach create security plans, but thinks more needs to be done. He believes to simply rely on the common phrase of trusting God is insufficient. Chauncey explained:
You can trust God, but when you left home this morning you locked the door, after exiting your car you locked it and when leaving the church after service you locked up. So you are still trusting God, but also doing something about it.
Cornerstone Church in Marion, Illinois agrees with Chauncey and takes extra measures to ensure the safety of its worshippers. Jason Thrash, the assistant pastor, said the tragedy in Charleston confirms that churches must be ready for anything. During regular Sunday services, Cornerstone has nearly a thousand people in attendance. For protection, the church has an armed security team which consists of police and ex-military volunteers who have gone through special training to watch over services.
In lieu of the desperately growing need for safety, Chuck Brewster, founder of The Brewster Group and Champions of Honor, has developed a security awareness seminar titled Church Security Insights (CSI). The seminar is designed specifically to help safeguard churches. CSI equips pastors and leaders with violence awareness training and key prevention strategies that go far beyond routine practices.
Brewster combines more than a decade of ministry experience with over 29 years of law enforcement to make CSI a unique seminar with special insights into the needs of faith-based institutions. As a retired U.S. Secret Service Agent he gathered a team of expert security planning and consulting agents with decades of Federal law enforcement experience to help churches, business and schools be on the cutting edge of awareness and safety. CSI is designed to help churches prevent violence, recover from unavoidable altercations and react properly to all forms of aggression.
The shooting deaths of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina has raised questions about safety in places of worship around the globe. Although there is no way to entirely protect a church from violence, leaders can increase safety precautions in order to be proactive rather than reactive. Charleston Shooting has brought awareness to the importance of increased security measures. Churches are now opting to be on the offense instead of the defense.
by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
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