In November, 26 members of the same congregation were killed in a shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas — a tiny, rural town whose unprecedented tragedy might have finally captured the …
In November, 26 members of the same congregation were killed in a shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas — a tiny, rural town whose unprecedented tragedy might have finally captured the moral conscience of the American people.
The tragedy was one of several that have occurred at churches across the country. Some have resulted from domestic situations, others from ill feelings toward the makeup of the congregation. Regardless, several church members lost their lives.
Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson, whose brother just happens to be a local pastor, said that it used to be that churches were safe from the world outside. However, that has changed across the United States, and such difference that can led to tragic event can happen in this area.
Thus, he expanded the church security and safety from a program that was in place sporadically the past three years to plans for church security training more frequently in 2018.
This expanded training began with two public meetings at the Bradley County Jail which were standing-room only. A third training session is now scheduled for Friday, Feb. 9 beginning at 6 p.m. at Waterville Baptist Church.
A Cleveland Daily Banner editorial stated:
“In the first of two seminars, this one held before a standing-room-only crowd on Nov. 16, Watson spoke volumes when his words ran parallel to those voiced in an earlier governing body session by Bradley County Commissioner Dan Rawls.
In the BCSO session, in which throngs had to be turned away because the North Conference Room’s capacity had already been exceeded, Watson reminded his listeners, “We should all be concerned, because sometimes people get mad and you don’t know what they may do.”
This is what led to the massacre in the modest First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. There, a gunman with a proven record of mental illness and domestic abuse, is thought to have been pursuing members of the family of his estranged wife.
His comments were echoed by 10th Judicial District Attorney General Steve Crump, who said in the initial session that churches need to be safe havens where worship can occur, not where those within have any fears.
However, Watson said that just saying those words are not enough.
“Not too long ago, a place of worship was considered a safe haven — a place to pray and receive the word of the Lord,” Watson, himself a man of faith, told his listeners. “Today, however, crime and violence have become far too prevalent and continue to breach the doors of our places of worship.”
He added, “We must be prepared.”
That has led the BCSO to not only hold the sessions at the jail and upcoming session at Waterville Baptist, but specific training to be held throughout the year. Members of the sheriff’s department will serve as instructors, as will Homeland Security’s Dewey Woody.
“This can happen here in Bradley County, so we need to be prepared and stop anything like this from happening,” Watson said. “Receiving the training that we will begin (in early 2018), we hope, will give you the tools to watch for any such event being possible.
“Local residents are so seriously concerned about safety in their
churches — and that has led to two standing-room crowds at these
trainings,” Watson said after the second presentation. “Our goal is to make your church, both inside and outside, as safe as possible.”
For more information, contact Communications Director James Bradford at 423-728-7320 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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