Monday, June 17, 2024
Monday, June 17, 2024
HomeAll The News11 a.m. Sunday: A Dangerous Hour

11 a.m. Sunday: A Dangerous Hour

By Larry Page, Executive Director

A recent CNN article entitled “One of the Most Dangerous Hours in America is Now 11 O’clock on Sunday Morning” caught our eye and confirmed what we have been witnessing for a while. The increase in active shooters and other disturbances at churches reveals a troubling trend that has only worsened in subsequent years.

As the article put it, “A house of worship… is traditionally the last place someone would expect to see lethal violence. Churches are called sanctuaries for a reason. A sanctuary is defined as a place of refuge and safety ‘set apart from the profane, ordinary world.’”

Church and security officials state that churches “are placed in a uniquely dangerous position every Sunday morning. Congregations are traditionally unprotected and are expected to welcome ‘the stranger,’ no matter how they may look. Houses of faith are one of the few communal places… that were created to embrace all comers, including broken or disturbed people on the fringe of society.”

In short, America’s churches are not immune from violence — and that includes gun violence. The numbers bear this out. Between 2007 and 2017 (the last frame of time for which we have accurate and complete compilations), violent church incidents have increased over 500%.

Numerous examples of church gun violence that ended in tragedy can be cited, and all of us are aware of many of those. I will share one horrific incident. On Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017, a man entered the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas and began shooting. He encountered no armed opposition, so he had what was, in effect, a gun-free zone and a target-rich environment. By the time he exited the church, he left 26 dead and 20 wounded.

Even though gun violence has increased at an unsettling rate, it still is not likely to happen in any given church. However, it can and does happen; so, the advice security experts offer is to pray that it won’t happen in your church but prepare as if it might.

Being prepared paid off for members of the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas. On Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, during the morning service, a man pulled a shotgun from his overcoat and began firing. He got only two shots off before an armed church member and part of the church’s security team shot and killed the assailant. Tragically, the two church members he shot died from their wounds; but the carnage could have been so much worse had the church simply neglected to prepare itself for such a harrowing event.

Our paramount purpose in sharing these facts is not to alarm, but to inform. With that said, understand that there are several ways to secure the help and guidance a church needs to protect its congregation and secure its facilities should it be so inclined. Many local law enforcement agencies, insurance companies, denominational offices and for-profit companies offering security consultants and safety training are available to provide that kind of assistance. Also, for churches with adequate budgets, on-site and armed security personnel, such as off-duty law enforcement officers, can be employed or professional security companies can be engaged contractually.

Many churches wanting to upgrade their security and better protect their congregations are opting for a practical and cost-effective solution by selecting, organizing and directing security teams from among church members. If those security team members are to be armed, the church will require that those members possess current concealed handgun carry licenses. We can offer guidance and counsel to assist in the creation and operation of church security teams.

We, here at the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council, are available to assist Arkansas churches to prepare for the unlikely, yet possible, active shooter incident or other violent encounter. If asked to provide that assistance, we can share the latest on Arkansas’ guns-in-churches laws. In addition, we can present guidance with practical considerations involving church security logistics, advice on different scenarios and ideas on the best practices to help avoid unnecessary accidents, mishaps and injuries.

There is no charge for providing the guidance we offer. If it involves a visit to your church to share this information with the staff, one or more committees, security team or the entire congregation, help with expenses is accepted, but not required. 

Our purpose is not to push churches to establish armed security, and neither is it to dissuade churches from doing so. Whatever a church may choose to do in this matter, our primary objective is to help the church make a decision that is a well-informed one. Accessing accurate, relevant and timely facts about church security, the applicable laws and the possible implications of any course of action is a good attempt to accomplish that goal.

We can help with that. However, whether you get that assistance from us or some other trusted source, please do the necessary due diligence and get and stay prepared.

Pray that violence may never visit your church; but prepare as if it may. If we can help you in any way, please contact us at (501) 837-1688 or llp@arfaith.org.

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