Sunday, September 10, 2023

The new normal?

We got to church early today because Don and I both had duties: I was working the Altar Guild, and Don was ushering. Our departure after the service was also delayed because of the aftermath of these duties.

It wasn't until we were driving home that Don said, "Did you hear about the letter?"

"No," I replied. "What letter?"

It seems the church received a potentially threatening letter a few days ago from a man who is "known" around town for having some mental health issues. In the letter, he apparently had some theological bone to pick, and concluded by writing that he would "see you in a few days."

Our church is very small. So is the town it's in. A call was promptly placed to the sheriff (to whom the letter-writer was known). The sheriff suggested the pastor and congregation be vigilant, to keep ancillary doors locked, and – once the service started – to keep the front doors locked as well. One of the ushers stationed himself in the narthex during the service to let in any last-minute worshippers.

Nothing unusual happened during the service – nor was anything mentioned by the pastor – but it does reinforce the need to take church security seriously.

Due to a worrisome incident in another town a few months ago (which, fortunately, turned out to be nothing), Don decided he would always be armed during his waking hours. He frequently arms himself anyway, but now he's always packing. He has a small and easily concealed handgun that he routinely straps on, both around the house and when doing errands in town.

I'm sure our church has a security policy (though I don't know what it is), just as I'm sure there are a select number of congregants packing heat. If things get more lawless, I might join in too.

We live in interesting times.


  1. Patrice, the church we attend currently has a contract with local law enforcement such that there is always an officer present Sundays. Sadly, I fear this is the way of the world currently.

  2. Our church has retired military and police officers that have been asked to serve as security. I'm sure many more people are carrying as their own security.

  3. I think everyone in the church should know so someone might not accidentally leave a door open or let someone in who knocks. Plus, they deserve to know. Not to cause a problem or be nosy, but what about your beliefs does he disagree? I cannot imagine anyone being upset about another church's beliefs unless they involve human sacrifice or child abuse.

  4. Good to hear that Don and others are taking the necessary steps to protect family and themselves. It is sometimes difficult to get others to see the need.

    We moved to our current rural location from the Chicago area several years back. When myself and others have tried to implement security measures, we get the, “that could never happen here speech”. The deputy sheriff that we spoke to said all the necessary ingredients for such an “event” are present within our community. He did say that we were the first church in the area to even contact the department.

    All that to say is ultimately a person is responsible for their own security, because one can not necessarily depend upon others.

  5. About 40 years ago, I was sitting in an evening service with an elderly couple waiting on service to start, and they asked if I had protection when attending alone at night. At that point, no. The wife pops open her purse and told me to look inside. She did have protection! She said she kept it in her purse at all times, even in church.

    There have always been crazy people in the world, and women especially have been prey to not so well motivated men. Things have accelerated. Everyone should be ready to defend themselves, including girls and women. Sad to say, children need it too, but that has to be their parents.

    1. Never show someone your gun. Never tell someone you have a gun. Obvious exception is law enforcement and then only under those circumstances where you are required to.

  6. Hi Pat & Don. :)

    Speaking as a couple involved in our smallish church's security and other teams (worship, hospitality, cleaning, etc.) Don should speak to the leadership about the security policy.

    Everyone who has a serving function needs to know who the point/lead is for security for every service so that if there is an event (we've had a couple potential issues over the last several years) there isn't any delay in trying to find the right person with whom to communicate.

    At least some of the congregation will turn to the ushers to point them to safe exits/locations so they need to be apprised of the scenarios and exit strategies and aren't giving conflicting instructions from what the security lead expects.

    Just my $0.0003 worth - bidenomics you know :)

    God Bless!

  7. My little, rural church has a security team, plus lots of other congregants who are armed too…myself included.

  8. A few years ago, when my husband and I moved to a new town, we went church shopping. At the first one we went to (and each church after that) the first question I asked is what do they do for security, and if it was ok for us to come armed? There were quite a few of the church members around us when we asked this, and pretty much everyone (young/old, male/female) was carrying. They practiced fell over themselves encouraging us to carry. With us being retired law enforcement a church without a formal security plan is a no-go.

  9. I am retired law enforcement as well. I agree that multiple people being armed without a cohesive plan is unsafe.
    Very large situation for cross fire injuries/deaths.

  10. Is there a plan if he does show up? Distracting him until law enforcement arrives?

  11. I am sorry you have that worry at your church. It is sadly a concern for you, your congregation, and all of your readers.

    We have lived on our place for 31 years. We were 10 miles out of our growing town then and are about 8 miles now. Eleven years ago, someone tried to kick in our door while we were away. Our now deceased 80-pound male Labrador made enough noise to discourage this. They continued on and split the door along the knob on our detached garage but didn't get in there either.

    I understand that several elders carry at our church. We too have become more diligent about watching things as the coat room is next to the entrance. Our collection basket is on a table in the Narthex, a practice started during Covid, so offerings are left as you enter to save time. (Our Pastor says we are the home of the 90-minute service, which is usually true, and a long time for the families with young children.) A church in our synod less than 10 miles away had their collection basket stolen during an early part of the service this summer.

    As a fairly recent widow and retiree, I carry much of the time when I am home, and my son is at work. We have rattlesnakes, skunks, coyotes, dumped off dogs, and mountain lions in the area. I know the Sheriff and his wife (and pray he doesn't retire soon - we have a good one).

    Being prepared for WHEN things happen, not IF, is what brings most of your readers. That is of course, in addition to your delightful writing style and informative topics!

    Be aware and be safe, everyone!

  12. There was a church shooting at an Episcopal church in Birminham Alabama last year. The gunman had been attending services there and showed up at a business meeting/potluck. They welcomed him in.
    He wound up killing and wounding several old folks before a member, another old man in his 70's, charged him, hit him over the head with a chair, and took the gun away. The gunman's
    picture on the news looked like he'd gotten the crap beaten out of him.
    People get their feelings hurt all the time and you just don't always know what they're thinking or are capable of. The only way security could have worked above was if he'd been disarmed before entering. So I'm thinking nowadays, only members of a church security team should be armed, even though some of the rest of us might want to be.