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Church Safety & Security Deadline Alert!

Are you aware that the federal government offers grants to houses of worship with the intent of increasing the safety and security of its members and community partners? Grant deadlines are on a state-by-state basis, but quickly approaching!


I am fully supportive of the idea that churches should be places of welcome and openness to all God’s people. At the same time, it is becoming more and more common for churches to be sites of senseless violence. How do we reconcile these two realities as we endeavor to live faithfully as followers of Christ? 


Rather than approaching this issue solely from a position of fear, I encourage all of us to remember our agency and power in being stewards of not only the resources granted to us by God, but also to be stewards of the very people with whom we are called to be in community. As Presbyterians, we take important measures to protect our children and enact security measures to prevent abuses of all kinds. In the same way, we have an opportunity to put into place safety and security measures to protect our people when they may be at their most vulnerable. 


On November 5, 2017, at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a local resident entered the church, shot and killed 26 people and wounded 22 others. This horrific incident is the deadliest mass shooting at an American place of worship, surpassing the Charleston church shooting of 2015. This event was the catalyst for First Presbyterian Church in Georgetown, Texas (a church just over 100 miles away) to examine their church safety and security measures, resulting in an overhaul of their protocol and the creation of a comprehensive Church Safety & Security Manual (click the link to view the manual).


FPC Georgetown is also applying for the Nonprofit Security Grant offered by FEMA, which other Presbyterian Churches have been awarded. Last year, FPC Georgetown member, Kathy Kerr Kubatzky and University Presbyterian Church (San Antonio, TX) member, Ben Henderson, recorded a podcast episode to share their congregations’ experiences in applying and receiving this grant. 


This grant may not be the best fit for all of our congregations, but it does not mean your congregation should give up their efforts. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance offers an effective workshop, at no cost to your presbytery or church, and the Synod Partnership for Disaster Recovery is also here to support your efforts. (Email me at kathy.leecornell@synodsun.org or call 214-390-1894)


As our country celebrates Black History Month, we cannot ignore the continued threats and animosity aimed at marginalized communities and their allies. Racial ethnic congregations and those congregations who have received threats because of their support for marginalized populations are high on the priority list for FEMA’s Nonprofit Security Grant. While we continue to work and pray for justice, peace, and the safety of all God’s people, may we recognize our role and capacity in caring for our congregants, especially when they enter our doors to worship.


After a church shooting that occurred 100 miles away, First Presbyterian Church in Georgetown created a Church Safety & Security Committee and manual to protect their congregants. (Photo: First Presbyterian Church, Georgetown, TX)





On May 15, 2022, an attacker entered Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, CA, fatally shooting one member and wounding 5 others. (Photo: Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)



FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, offers several resources for Houses of Worship, including the Nonprofit Security Grant Program. Webinars explaining the grant process are offered in the coming weeks. Visit: https://www.fema.gov/grants/preparedness/nonprofit-security for more information/ 















In July 2023, after an incident at University Presbyterian Church (Baton Rouge, LA), the Presbytery of South Louisiana hosted a Church Security Workshop, presented by Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. The event was free for congregations with attendees from other denominations as well. 


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