Following the mass shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas on November 5, Rev. Mark Whitlock spoke with the Orange County Register about the need to balance security and hospitality at church. In addition to serving as the executive director of the USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement, Whitlock is the pastor of Christ Our Redeemer AME Church in Irvine, California.
“We are a welcoming church,” Whitlock told the paper. “But we need a security plan, a team of professionals and volunteers who will keep congregants safe.”
The article looked at how other congregations, including Christian churches, Jewish synagogues, Muslim mosques and Sikh gurdwaras, have adjusted to the threat of violence in sacred spaces. It concludes with Whitlock:
In Irvine, AME Pastor Whitlock said he’s heard from congregants who expressed fear about attending church since the Charleston massacre and other incidents. He told them to come anyway.
“We cannot let fear hold us hostage at home on Sunday morning,” he said.
The church’s primary objective should be to protect its congregants, Whitlock said.
“We believe God will protect us,” he said.
“But God also gives us the tools we need to protect ourselves. And we need to start using them.”
The Cecil Murray Center is discussing plans for a workshop on church security in 2018. Click here to sign up for the CRCC newsletter and select your interest in the Murray Center to find out more.