Are We Safe in Church?

The mass shooting at a small Baptist church in Texas last weekend that left more than 20 people dead is reverberating through churches far and wide.

At our church in South Florida we noticed new security features this week, including additional locked doors, limited entry and exit points and new routes for children to travel to Sunday school. My oldest son, 7, asked me why church leadership made the changes. I hesitated in telling him the full truth. Instead, I simply told him that the church feels it’s safer for everyone if we adopt some new rules.

I hate that it’s come to this.

Churches are supposed to be open, inviting places where all are welcome and can seek relief from their troubles and seek comfort through religion and community. It’s not supposed to be a place where we wonder, as we listen to the preacher’s sermon, about exit routes should a madman with a gun decide to kill us. But these are the days we live in and this is our reality. Over the past few years I’ve consistently reminded my wife that whenever she is out in public with our children she needs to look around the room or building and decide where she would go if someone came inside and intended to do them harm. It’s the type of hyper-vigilance that we must confront and adopt.

Maybe we’re not far from having security guards and metal detectors at church entrances. I’ve seen articles saying that parishioners and churchgoers are more inclined now to carry guns into church. Is that the answer?

It’s clear that concerts, churches, nightclubs, work gatherings, malls and other places are no longer safe places. In fact, I can’t think of any safe places anymore.

We already knew that churches were no longer immune from this type of hatred and violence. The murders at a Charleston church in 2015 proved that. And even before that we knew that churches were not sacrosanct. The bombings at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963 that killed 4 young girls proved that.

After learning of the shootings in Sutherland Springs, Texas and imagining all of those people gathered with family and friends, dressed in their Sunday best to praise their God, worship and pray for peace, I want to scream from the mountaintops and beg our leaders to finally do something about the pervasiveness of guns in our society. I don’t want my children to grow up wondering if they are safe at church and I don’t want to wonder that from week to week, either.

 (Photo credit: bill.showalter via Foter.com / CC BY)

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