JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Last week, a place of worship turned deadly when a gunman opened fire and killed 26 victims at a Texas church.
In Onslow County, officials are taking note and providing a crime prevention and security seminar specifically designed for churches.
While keeping the doors open is often considered part of what makes a church a church, the recent shooting has left some wondering if it’s the right path.
Pastor Matthew Drake at Richlands United Pentecostal Church has developed a contingency plan with his congregation, many of whom open carry.
“I’m responsible for the souls that come into this building spiritually, but also I’m like a shepherd, and this is my flock, and I want to take care of them on all levels in any way that I can,” Drake said.
The seminar, developed by the Jacksonville Police Department and the Jacksonville Onslow Chamber of Commerce, is meant to address churches’ security concerns.
“Some churches; they want to feel like they have an open door policy,” said Laurette Leagon, president of the Jacksonville Onslow Chamber of Commerce. “And while that was always the way and some churches still feel that way, you have to protect your parishioners as well.”
Officers from the Jacksonville Police Department’s Community Policing Division provided crime prevention and security information they hope to benefit church congregations.
Pastor Drake is already a few steps ahead, installing cameras and security measures around his church, while also keeping his doors open, which he said is the bottom line.
“This is the house of God,” Drake said. “Come on in. Let’s go. Let’s have church.”