The doors of the sanctuary are … locked?
Let that sink in: limited access to a place of refuge and safety.
It has become the new normal in our places of worship – locked doors, armed security officers, barriers, surveillance cameras, bag searches, etc.
What in the world is going on with the Fort Knox-level security in places that have traditionally been open places of welcome? This is a question that I have pondered for years and one that emerged again on Sunday, as I watched and listened to a news report called “Faith under fire: How 3 congregations moved on from mass shootings.”
The report took on special significance for me because it was aired on the weekend devoted to raise awareness about gun violence and to honor the victims and survivors of gun violence.
While security in houses of worship is not new to some parishioners, who have traditionally provided protection for high-profile religious leaders; it certainly was not the norm for most, until fatal shootings at faith-based properties (at least a dozen in the past six years) got our attention and raised questions of safety and preparedness.
I admit that I have no firm answers. In fact, I have more questions than answers because I believe that there are dangers in under-reacting to security risks and in over-reacting to security risks in places of worship and that no place of worship can promise complete safety and security.
I also believe that any security measures taken need to be ministry-based and reflect a belief that God is our ultimate protector while offering preparedness for a real risk.
I’m not sure what that looks like – how do we balance concerns for safety with an open-door policy that can put our safety at risk?