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Having served as a pastor for thirty-nine years before retiring and moving to Bella Vista, I still have a pastor's heart for our churches. My heart was broken when I learned of the shooting rampage in the First Baptist Church in Sunderland, Texas. Here was a relatively small church in a relatively rural area suddenly eliminated by the carnage of a deranged shooter. One has to wonder at what the members of that church could have done to prevent this tragedy from ever happening.

I am grateful to Benton County Sheriff Shawn Holloway (and all of the deputies who worked with him) for presenting a seminar for local church leaders following the Texas shootings on how to help their churches prevent or prepare for something like that locally. We need more of that kind of training. We would like to think that something like this only happens in churches elsewhere that are big and publicly involved, but the fact is all churches are vulnerable. Consider the following events specifically targeting churches:

• In Neosho, Mo., two members and an assistant pastor were killed at the conclusion of a Sunday night service.

• In Arkansas, a man involved in a child-custody dispute came to his wife's church and shot her as she left the building.

• In Chicago, a young church musician was shot by a gang member while he was unloading his musical equipment at a church.

• In Florida, a man was brought to church by a friend so that he could talk to someone about killing his neighbor.

• In California, protesters targeted a church over a speaker, and the pastor's wife was injured, the church damaged and services severely disrupted.

• In North Carolina, a church worker was stabbed to death in the church's kitchen by a homeless man who then stole her purse and ran.

• In Laurel, Md., a man entered a church during an evening meeting and sexually assaulted three girls (6-12) who were playing in the basement and then abducted a four-year-old and assaulted her. No one realized anything was happening until later.

• In Birmingham, Ala., the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed, killing four young girls.

I think you get the picture. There may be many reasons why someone does these horrible things, but the results are still the same: Innocent people, young, middle-aged, and old, all get killed or injured.

There are churches that are working hard to make sure these things do not occur. In addition, the law enforcement community in the Denver, Colo., area has done a lot to educate people about what to look for, what to do and how to survive. A few years ago, they enlisted the assistance of the Tina Lewis Rowe Training Group to help train the ushers and greeters in churches on what they need to know and do to prevent tragedies. They also have taught them what to do if an active shooter shows up.

To that end, I have already recommended to the International Conference of Police Chaplains that they have an enriched course in this area when they meet in Texarkana for a regional training seminar next April.

People do not want to believe that such things could ever happen to their loving and friendly churches but, unfortunately, sometimes it does. It's time for all of us to encourage the leadership of our churches to be proactive in developing programs to prevent such tragedies from happening. There are resources available for training.

In my next article, I'll suggest some things you might want to consider to help your church.

Robert Box is the former chaplain for the Bella Vista Police Department and is currently the Fire Department chaplain. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Religion on 01/31/2018

Print Headline: Church Security -- Part One

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