Church Safety

by | Nov 9, 2017

The Rev. Dr. Maria Kane, rector of St. Paul’s in Waldorf, wrote a pastoral letter to the congregation that she has given me permission to share:

After Sunday’s tragic shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, we have been forced to confront a dreaded yet ever-present reality: Could this happen here? What would we do? Are we safe?

While I strongly believe that there is no need for panic within our congregation, I recognize that we live in a time and place when complacency is no longer an option. In response, I have established an Emergency Preparedness and Response Team (EPRT), which will be led by parishioner G.O. Lyon, retired Battalion Chief with the Arlington County Fire Department. With support from the Charles County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Emergency Services, and the Diocese, the EPRT will assess our current needs and assets and create an appropriate emergency response plan.

Even as we seek to ensure the safety of our faith community, we will not give in to fear. Nor will we waver in our commitment to welcome and serve all God’s people with compassion and respect. As the writer to the Hebrews encourages us: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2). Indeed, Jesus calls us to nothing less.

I give thanks for Maria’s calm wisdom and unwavering faith. I share her conviction that this is not a time to give in to fear, nor to waver in our commitment to follow Jesus in the way of love. Yet I desperately want you all to be safe.

Thus while we all pray and work for a day when we need not live in fear of such violence, I urge you to consider safety measures within your congregation and to establish emergency response plans. In each jurisdiction of the diocese, civic authorities are eager to engage with congregations on safety issues. And we are here to help.

Maria ended her letter to the congregation with a word of love and encouragement, and a blessing for us all:

May God transform your fear into trust, your anger into action, and your exhaustion into hope. Above all, remember that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate you from God’s endless love.