How to keep our churches safe

At least 26 dead in Texas church shooting
At least 26 dead in Texas church shooting

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At least 26 dead in Texas church shooting 01:04

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  • The Rev. Nelson Price: US churches must balance being open and accessible while ensuring the safety of all worshippers
  • Fortunately, there is precedent for this maintaining balance -- and it goes back centuries, writes Price

The Rev. Nelson Price is the retired pastor of Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.

(CNN)As the shooting in the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church once again reveals, houses of worship have become soft targets for mass violence. As such, churches in America must now balance being open and accessible to the public, while maintaining safety and security for all their worshipers.

But before we can move forward, we should pause to remember the 26 individuals who lost their lives and the 20 more who were injured in this tragedy. Congregants of all houses of worship must mourn with those in Sutherland Springs. And they must send their prayers to this small Texas town forever shaken by this lone killer.
The Rev. Nelson Price
After a period of mourning, though, we must work toward improving security. Fortunately, there is some precedent for protecting churches. The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is built over the traditional site where Jesus Christ is believed to have been born. At one time, the entrance had a large archway, allowing easy passage for many congregants. But to prevent Ottoman horsemen from riding in and defacing it, the locals filled in the doorway with massive stones, narrowing the entrance significantly. Today, a guard stands by the entrance.
    The Church of the Nativity isn't the only church to take extra precautions. For example, many churches have security entrances for their office suites. Doors are electronically controlled, and visitors are only given access after they've been viewed on a surveillance camera.
    While we, as church leaders, may want our doors to be open every day of the week, another security measure to consider -- and which some already do -- is to keep church doors closed when service is not session. While such a precaution would not have protected against Sunday's horrific killing rampage, it could save lives in the future.
    And though we may be able to secure church office suites or church premises off hours, the hardest time to protect a congregation is on the occasion of public worship. To address this issue, many churches have stationed security personnel at the entrances. As my friend in Alaska framed his role on Sundays -- his job is "to take one for the pastor."
    Many large churches already take several of these precautions. However, there are vulnerable smaller churches that don't have the personnel, financial resources or infrastructure to provide sufficient security. Now they, too, must work toward raising the funds to do so.
    As heinous as these shootings are -- and as upsetting as these additional new security measures may be -- they are also a reminder of the existence of a supreme power. If one young man, as the case in Texas shows, is capable of so much harm, then there is evil in this world. And we must unite against it.
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    What better place to unite than in a house of God? After all, God is the absolute moral authority. And, in Him, we will find the strength to persevere.
    In short, this tragedy is an opportunity for the churches of the land to advocate love, espouse morality and promote stability that, collectively, will ensure the spiritual vitality of the nation.