Monday afternoon I got a phone call from a colleague checking on a rumor one of her parishioners had heard that my congregation has posted an armed guard at the entrance to our sanctuary. "If they've got one there at the Congregational Church," the parishioner had apparently said, "we should have one too." I assured my colleague we did not have any guards at the door. Armed or otherwise. Some well trained head ushers. An officer directing traffic in the roadway in front of our driveway. But no armed guards.
No doubt the mass shooting in at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, stirred up the question. And it does, once again, raise the issue of security for houses of worship. It is an issue that needs to be taken seriously, no doubt about it. Indeed, our local police department even offers a special one hour training program on such matters for church staff members. But an armed guard?
Maybe I am naïve. Maybe my biases about guns in general is showing. But frankly, I think such a move would be contrary to everything that happens beyond the church entrance and inside the sanctuary itself. We gather to proclaim our trust in the way of God, not our trust in firepower. Yes we need to be vigilant. Yes
, we need to be alert to the reality that if it happened in Charleston at a Bible study, or in Texas at a Sunday worship service, it could happen here. At our church. But that does not mean we need to take up arms.
But there are issues we as the church can help lead the way. The pervasiveness of violence in our culture. The paucity of mental health services. The failure to adequately address domestic violence. The sheer number of guns in America and the ease with which they can often be procured. Yes, the church needs to respond to the mass shooting in Texas. But there are far more constructive things we can do than simply post an armed guard at the door and hide behind our fears.