The basement fellowship hall of one of the largest churches in the county was packed with the most ecumenical gathering of local church leaders I’ve ever seen. The recent spate of mass-shootings obviously had everybody thinking about safety and local law-enforcement agencies along with the Commonwealth’s Attorney were hosting a church safety seminar. The presenters were excellent and reminded me of some lessons learned the hard way that are worth sharing.
Twenty-five years ago, I operated a fleet garage in Atlanta, Georgia. The garage was part of a large, downtown ministry that had an electronic security system monitored by an on-site, twenty-four-hour security staff. One zone of the system had been malfunctioning and, when it alarmed one night, the security staff by-passed it and ignored it. Thieves made off with thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment and a dump-truck.
Lesson: A security system that isn’t in place and operating all the time isn’t a security system. It is a false sense of security.
Forty years ago, our automotive tech class was taking a break outside the shop, standing around, shooting the breeze when up walks another student with a pine branch about the size of a baseball bat in his hand. He starts yelling at a guy not five feet from me about a girl they were both pursuing. Quick as a flash he swung that branch and I saw my friend’s head changed shape under the blow. Just as fast my friend was down, and the attacker was gone.
Lesson: From our point of view, violence is random and incredibly fast. We never know when it is coming our way. People assume that Jesus’ only response to violence was passivity. That is inaccurate as well as inadequate. Jesus resisted hypocritical teaching of religious leaders, as well as their usurious exploitation of worshippers in the temple, with a whip. He illustrated some of his teaching with reference to a “strong man, fully armed, guarding his own house,” and with a “King, preparing for battle,” without implying that there was anything wrong with the use of force in those moments. When soldiers asked how to practice righteousness he did not tell them to lay down their arms and resign their commissions. Before his departure he recognized the need for armed defense against everyday evil by urging his men to provide themselves with swords (Luke 22:36). Violent evil will be with us till Christ returns so we must be prepared.
Three months ago, we hosted a family discipleship seminar. Our presenter, Dr. Kevin Jones, had driven over from Hampton, Virginia. A couple dozen people gathered to hear his talk and not half-way through we had to evacuate the building for a tornado warning.
Last week, to the complete shock of the congregation, one of our young praise band members fainted—in the middle of a song—on stage, requiring immediate first-aid. A husband & wife team of nurses immediately took charge and took care of him, but it took a while for the rest of us to regain our equilibrium.
Lesson: We need a plan and a designated team to handle such emergencies.
Thankfully, a group of dedicated church-members have volunteered to serve as FCC’s Safety Team. They have been developing plans and policies for various situations to keep all of us as safe as possible during worship services and other events. The team members are: Glenn Ferguson (Team Leader), Beth Ferguson, Jeff Good, Jessi Good, Brian Hall, and John Theo.
When the team is ready, they will lead us through a few emergency preparedness drills. Should an emergency occur our job as church members will be to stay out of their way as they move toward the crisis and follow any directions they may have for us.