The terroristic bombing attacks by Islamist extremists on three churches and three luxury hotels over the Easter celebration in Sri Lanka has resulted in 290 dead, at the time of this writing, and more than 500 wounded. The toll is likely to rise. These heinous acts underline the vital necessity of church security.
Resistance to Church Security
The attacks strikingly coincided with the current lack of regard for basic security in my own church — which is probably the case for most churches in the United States these days. No matter what is happening around the world, and no matter what has happened in the U.S., a great resistance for being even minimally prepared for the worst seems to exist in places of worship.
When my pastor appointed me to the board of trustees of our church back in December 2018, I saw it as a great opportunity to begin moving forward with necessary security enhancements. Our board of trustees governs and approves various expenditures regarding the building and the grounds, while the church council handles issues concerning day-to-day operations.
I immediately ran into resistance when I brought up security. Resistance soon turned into outright stonewalling regarding implementing a basic, minimally expensive enhancement: door security. With some added background, this may sound familiar to many.
About Our Church
Our church is 135 years old. We worship in a beautiful historic building in the center of a small college town, where each corner of the main intersection houses a place of worship. My church has always been considered an “open” house of God, although it is locked when no one is there.
Despite recent urban development transitioning the area from a small college town to a tourist destination, it is still a very safe place. We aren’t drowning in the crime problems that face larger urban or suburban communities near us, including the small town I police. But too many people become complacent, thinking crime and devastation can’t happen in our community.
Expense should not be an issue in our church — especially considering that the measures I want to implement are very reasonable (and that there was plenty of money for remodeling the basement).
Basic Proposals for Improved Security
I wanted to start gradually — so as not to offend sensibilities — with an electronically controlled access system for the two doors to the church hall. Most members and visitors access the facility through those doors rather than through the doors of the original church, which is free and open unless the doors are physically locked. The hall also houses Sunday school classes and child care for the younger children. There are no security cameras anywhere inside or outside the buildings!
Here is the funny thing: Many years ago, an electronic-keypad access system was installed on those very doors. When those stopped working, no one saw to it that the keypads were repaired. Members of the congregation had complained about access anyway.
I proposed finding an updated door-access system that our lone secretary or one of the pastors could control from a smartphone to approve or deny access — or at least know who had entered the building. Doors would be the starting point, but other necessary changes would be added gradually as people got used to subtle change.
I wasn’t even allowed to gather information and estimates, however. At that point, I made the decision to resign from the trustee position. I will not be blamed for any horrific events that might occur due to trustee inaction, and my pastor understood.
My Approach Going Forward…
The best I can do now is continue to protect my family and fellow parishioners present at early morning service. Everyone else is on their own.
Hopefully, our town will remain safe and undisturbed, but that is a chance the trustees and the council are taking. After reading the story of the horror in Sri Lanka and the reported Christian persecutions around the world, I’d say the odds aren’t good.
Perhaps you are having similar issues. I hope that your house of worship takes church security seriously though. If your church administrators and clergy are also in denial, you may have to take the same stand that I have or join a church where the security level meets your comfort level. My best wishes to you in the future, regardless of which path you take.