By Mindy Ragan Wood, Staff Writer – Local church pastors are taking action to ensure safety protocols are implemented to protect parishioners in light of a massacre in a small Texas town last week.
Piedmont United Methodist Church and First Baptist Church are reexamining their safety procedures to see what improvements should be made for the threat of an active shooter incident.
First Baptist Church Senior Pastor Gary Caldwell said he did not want to reveal specific guidelines for safety reasons, but agreed that more could be needed.
“We are having a meeting Sunday night of our security team and any others who may be interested in our church who would like to participate. We will revisit some areas. We already know some things we are going to address to beef up security more toward an active shooter,” he said.
PUMC Senior Pastor Randy Wade said the church did not have security when he came aboard three years ago. Wade has worked with an Oklahoma City police officer who attends the church to develop “emergency” procedures but said they have not hired armed security.
“We’ve gone through and identified the most likely threats including an active shooter and the best things to do in those situations,” he said. “We train our staff first because they’ll be taking the lead.”
Church staff are trained in safety and evacuation procedures in the event of a security threat. They also have radios to quickly relay information so staff and the congregation can act quickly. Wade said the church is planning to reevaluate their protocols and tighten security.
“We put this in place out of an awareness that these things are starting to happen. Ten years ago we didn’t worry about it much. But we sure do now,” he said.
Caldwell said it is a strange feeling to have a security presence in a church. In his 27-year career as a minister, it is something he never dreamed he would see.
“It can’t be ignored. It feels awkward in a church to have something or a presence of security. I recognize the need of it and it can’t be ignored but it feels awkward to me in my America. Other churches for years have undergone attacks in other parts of the world and even persecution for meeting and worshiping. People have lost their lives ever since the beginning of Christianity. But I never thought so in America but here we are. Any place where a crowd can gather whether it’s a concert in Vegas, a sporting event, or a church, we’re targets.”
Caldwell speculated that the outbreak of violence in America is the change in culture.
“I think that culture has changed significantly such that the values we had that parents taught their children are just missing. I think some of it is the church’s laxness in the spread of Christianity that teaches and upholds those values,” he said.
Police Chief Scott Singer is also reaching out to churches in support of the effort to increase security. He is offering the department’s services to evaluate potential security threats and courses of action.
“I believe it’s time for us to have the conversation. My plan is to extend an invite to the senior staff of each church to have a joint meeting and explore the circumstances of security, what to look for, how to react. We want to establish a time and date where we can meet with senior staff at churches and have at least an initial dialogue as to how best to prepare churches for such events,” he said.
Caldwell said he would attend the discussion, but Wade said he would rely on the plans their security team will implement. Calls to Soldier Creek Church of Christ and Piedmont Nazarene Church were not returned at press time.