Sanctuary and Safety

April 20, 2023

“Many people think of a house of worship as a safe area where violence and emergencies cannot affect them. However, violence in houses of worship is not a new phenomenon. In addition to violent acts, fires, tornados, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and arson also affect houses of worship.” The preceding sentence comes from a PCUSA document.1 It was originally written in 2013. Does that raise your angst higher to know we have been intentionally addressing the dangers in the world, including intentional acts of violence, for years, or lessen your worry?

Sibling Rivalry
It is not as if the church of Jesus Christ suddenly became a target in the last few weeks following the events in Nashville. We only need to open our Bible to Genesis 4, barely into the story of God and humankind, to discover our violent choices against our own kind. I have always been intrigued by the very honest way Scripture reveals God’s way in the midst of the tragedies of natural and human-made destruction. Neither Judaism nor Christianity hide from the daily sorrows or violence of life.
We also never give up in the face of disasters. We believe in Jesus Christ, who “commands even the winds and the
water and they obey him.” (Luke 8: 22-25) He is the Prince of Peace who also reminds us to keep our swords put away lest we die by the sword, and whose ancient vision calls us to beat our swords into plowshares. (Mt 26: 52 and Isaiah 2: 4)

Nevertheless, or because, we Presbyterians take seriously the “persistence of sin in our lives,” and the “human tendency to idolatry and tyranny,”2 we also have a response-ability to develop plans for the safety and well-being of all who are engaged in the ministries of the church.

As an interim pastor, it is one of the avenues I usually discuss with the leaders, sometimes including a practice fire-drill before the end of my time. As it happens, with a full-time childcare center here, your leaders are taking a new (old) look at our protocols and policies. The session formed a Security Task Group this month.

They have three goals:

  1. Implement some immediate and long-delayed changes to improve security – cost up to $5000.00 (already within 2023 budgeted funds).
  2. Apply for FEMA grants for ongoing projects as we develop other solutions for our safety and security.
  3. Design and recommend changes, policies and procedures for review and approval by the session and implement those changes as directed.

(For the exact phrasing of the motions and rationale, you can ask the clerk of session, Marcia, for a copy of the approved motions.)

The Security Task Group core members are: Ally Fetch (elder, NLC Bus. Mgr.), Josh Shields (elder elect and former trustee), Kevin Burel (elder in reserve) and Randy Dragon (trustee, elder in reserve). They have been encouraged to seek out others in the church’s membership who may have specific knowledge to be part of this work as well.

As they move forward and we adapt to new measures (yes, access codes or keyed entry may be changing), please be encouraged by this visible response of faithful care for each other. It will be a challenging balance between being an open and welcoming church where everybody belongs and a safe environment where every body is appropriately protected. Please pray for wisdom as we consider and introduce changes.

As always, may we yet shine as a beacon of peace and love, following the light of Christ.

Peace be with you,

Rev Bev
1Guide for Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship. June 2013
2PC (USA) Book Of Order 2019-2023, F-1.0303b and F-2.05.
-Swords to Ploughshares, benito roveran from verona, Italia, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons, Mosaics Yael Portugheis in Beit Habad Gallery, Jewish Quarter, Jerusalem.
-Swords to Ploughshares, Sculpture at the United Nations, By Neptuul – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,