Once upon a time, churches were looked upon as safe havens to which even fugitives could go for protection. “Church” and “safety” were all but synonymous. The exposure of clergy abuse scandals changed all that. Gone forever were the days when it could be taken for granted that any church was a safe sanctuary. Suddenly, “Safe Church Policies” were needed, primarily to protect children from predatory behavior within churches. Over time, a broader awareness of safety issues within places of worship and the rise of external threats to the sanctity of church safety, demanded expanded thinking on how to keep churches safe and evolving policies to better accomplish those goals. Churches wrestled with finding the right balance between their calling to be open and welcoming to all people, and the need for providing security to minimize the possibilities of innocent people becoming victims to violence or abuse.
I am happy to report that our Safe Church Team has been proactive in addressing safety concerns for the protection of this congregation. Regular fire drills, first aid kits, and Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) are just a few examples of the resolve to be as prepared as possible for a variety of emergency situations. The Safe Church Team, along with groups from other churches in town, has attended two special presentations on church safety provided by the Westminster Police Department. These were offered in response to the unprecedented escalation of violence directed at houses of worship. One result of this information sharing has been that several other local faith communities have requested copies of our Policy to assist them in formulating safety procedures for themselves.
Recently, you may have observed signs posted on the side and rear entrances to the church with the notification that those doors will be locked shortly after worship begins on Sundays. Anyone arriving after that time will need to enter the building by the front entrance, which will remain unlocked. This was adopted as a reasonable safety measure, with the expectation that whatever occasional and modest inconvenience might result will be offset by our fidelity to the purpose of being a sanctuary where the ministry of the church can be conducted with reasonable safety and extravagant welcome for all.