HENRY COUNTY, Ga. - They are men and women of the cloth who also believe in protecting their flock. Which is why there were no empty seats at a ‘Safety in the Place of Worship’ seminar held at the Headquarters of the Henry County Sheriff’s Office Monday night.
The seminar came on the heels of the tragedy at a church in Sutherland Springs Texas where 26 innocent people, including children, were murdered by a lone gunman.
Dr. Ray Gentry, director of ministries for more than 80 churches part of the Southside Baptist Network, said some members already had a safety plan in place before the mass murder at a Texas church. Others are now seriously considering it.
“Everybody needs a safety plan in this day and age. It’s important that we are prepared and that we don’t just assume that it will never happen here,” said Dr. Gentry.
That was part of the message at the full capacity seminar.
Reserve Henry County Deputy and Pastor Reed Benson told the crowd training is crucial in the handling of firearms and setting up a safety plan.
“There’s a verse in the Bible says we need to protect those entrusted to our care, that’s our kids, that’s our church members,” said Pastor Benson.
He advised congregations to perhaps hire security or utilize licensed weapons carriers like military or law enforcement as part of their safety team. But congregations must first decide yes or no to weapons in their places of worship as approved by the Georgia Legislature several years ago
Assistant Pastor Michael Tinney, with Henry Baptist Church in McDonough, said his congregation is still contemplating a decision.
“We’ve not yet made that decision, that’s one of the reasons we are here tonight is to decide how to best maneuver ourselves,” said Pastor Tinney.
Sheriff Keith McBrayer sent participants home with a DVD with instructions to design a safety plan best suited for their congregation
“We have to do something. Doing nothing is just not an option,” the Sheriff told the crowd.
Dr. Gentry with the Southside Baptist Network said numerous members attended the safety seminar put on by the sheriff’s office.
“It is very important to have someone in charge of church safety and security because otherwise, it’s haphazard,” said Dr. Gentry.
And while some churches may already have safety plans in place, Sheriff McBrayer said it’s important to do something about security in a house of prayer.
“Sometimes you have to get the church members and have them in different roles. Everybody can do something different on that church,” said Sheriff McBrayer.
He said church leaders from nearly 80 churches attended the safety seminar.
The sheriff said another seminar will be held in the near future for members of some thirty other churches and others who were not able to attend because of the overflow crowd.