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Security vs. Access
Photo: Taylor Wilson
Traditionally, churches have served as places of safety and refuge. When all other doors were closed, churches (especially those in cities) were open to the sad and discouraged. Openness has symbolized the invitation that Jesus issues in the Bible:  “Come...you who are weary and burdened” (Matthew 11:28).

But that assumption, like many others today, is being challenged, according to a news story in the March 15, 2006, Washington Post. At least a dozen churches in the northwest quadrant of Washington, DC, have been robbed in the past sixty days. The timing has varied, with thefts during or just following services posing particular concerns about safety.

The thieves have snagged items such as iPods, computers, wallets, credit cards, and a vacuum cleaner. One daylight heist was done at gunpoint in the church office. Law enforcement officers are investigating, looking for any connections or similarities; however, no one has been arrested.

Terry Lynch, executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations says he hasn’t seen this level of activity in 20 years. Once initial shock about the thefts fades, congregational leaders engage in strenuous discussion about how to respond. The desire to serve all levels of society wars with desire for safety. As debate rages, various strategies such as security systems and locking up offices are being implemented. While many details are being kept under wraps, some security steps seem to be logical—i.e., weekly offering amounts are no longer being published in church bulletins.

Security Analysis

As you mull over this report, consider how you relate to this story. Does it cause you to pause and reconsider safety precautions at home, worship, and/or as you move around the community? On what do you depend for safety? Do you know the crime statistics in your community? Does your newspaper carry a summary of police responses to crimes? Without allowing fear to dictate how you live, make a list of steps you can take to balance security and access.

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