Rev. Lora Brandis
Since the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs in November, many of us here at Horizon have wondered about any steps we can take to ensure our own safety. First, please know that Lauren has a plan in place for all the religious educators. Secondly, we have been reading materials concerned congregation members have sent us and watching for local training. Two opportunities for training arrived in our email in-boxes recently so we took advantage of both.
Worship Circle Coordinator David Martin attended “Is Your Church Safe?” a two-hour summit provided by the City of Carrollton. I was invited with a phone call; the caller made it clear that the training was for leaders and elders of the church only. They weren’t publicizing the event widely, but if we were interested they would send more information. It felt like the event was shrouded in secrecy. Invitation only. Only invite certain people. I am grateful David was able to go and represent Horizon.
The other event was provided by our insurance company, which because they specialize in church insurance, I assumed would be an appropriate event for us to attend. The training was to be four hours long, held at First Baptist Church in Grapevine. Rebecca, the office administrator, and I attended together. Willing to give up four hours of a busy Thursday, we looked forward to learning something new about church safety.
It was just one week after the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. The workshop started with video footage from recent mass shootings in the U.S., going as far back as Columbine. The hymn “Amazing Grace” played underneath as the soundtrack to these tragic events. I assume that this is the way this workshop always starts but sitting there just one week after another mass shooting, it felt like an unhealed wound was being ripped open and salt was being poured into it.
The presenter made his case: we have learned so much since Columbine. Approaches to responding to the presence of a mass shooter have changed because of what we learned. (I know this, by the way, because I’ve had two trainings in two different hospitals as a chaplain.) The presenter asked the audience, “If we were to make all guns illegal would anything change?” The audience quietly answered, “No.” “If there were enough mental health professionals to go around, would anything change?” Again, the audience (of about 300) sheepishly said, “No.” Rebecca and I decided we would leave at the break.
We left before the break. When the presenter said, “Those children speaking to the president aren’t going to make any difference. And I’m not being political.” We left. A colleague of mine who stayed assured me that the training finally was provided, and it was pretty good. I am not sorry we didn’t stay. I know there are better ways to receive this training and I had better ways to spend my time back at the office.
As a Unitarian Universalist minister, I cannot tell you that God will keep us safe. That is not only bad theology, but there is so much evidence to the contrary. I can reassure you that we will work with local law enforcement to train greeters, ushers, teachers, and anyone else who wants to receive the training to be prepared. It saddens me that we must live this way now. I do think that common sense gun laws can make a difference. I do think that speaking up makes a difference. Ours is a both / and theology. We can be prepared now, and we can work to create a world that doesn’t have to prepare for such inevitable violence.