March 21, 2019 | by Phil Sikkenga
If you were at church last weekend, you may have noticed a security guard in the lobby watching over the numerous people moving in and out and through various parts of the church.
Who would have thought that we actually needed an armed security guard to make sure that we could worship Jesus safely in the land of the free?
Oh, how times have changed.
It doesn't take many days of watching the news or reading the headlines to realize that the risk of a “hostile individual” being at our church is real. Even more challenging is that these acts of violence are usually unpredictable.
Think about seat belts or airbags. They aren't there because you plan on crashing your car on a regular basis, but because at any particular moment you could be driving down the road on a warm spring day and get t-boned out of nowhere. While some of us have gone our entire lives without getting into a car crash, others of us have experienced horrific crashes first-hand.
This is one of the main reasons we have a security guard in church: to be that extra layer of protection in the case of something unthinkable. Our hopes are obviously that nothing bad will ever happen to a congregation of worshippers and my faith wants to tell me that God’s providential protection will cover us in all cases. But we’ve seen too many stories of faithful people attacked in horrible ways since the beginning of time. Terrible things are permitted to happen in this world. We don’t know why. We pray we will avoid it. But we also take precautions.
I guess at the end of the day, I have faith in God’s protection when I get in my car, but this doesn't stop me from putting on my seatbelt every time I turn the key..
But there’s another great reason to have off-duty officers as security guards at ECRC: they are great references and barriers in the event we’re visited by non-violent disturbances or protesters, similar to ones that have been at neighboring churches.
For example, one pro-life group has been actively protesting around west-suburban churches wearing body cameras. They provoke worshippers and then skew and twist their words, which they then post on social media. In the event we would encounter something of this nature, it is very simple and less risky to send out a trained, off-duty police officer than one of our congregants.
The goal of a security officer is to protect church members in a variety of ways. But we understand that this doesn’t come without cost--literal and figurative. Some find the officer’s presence unsettling or as a lack of faith. Others may worry what this image projects to the world we long to reach out to in love.
We wish it didn’t have to be this way. This decision was made after much prayer and research. We believe we are being wise, while still following what Jesus would have us do and be as a church.
Executive Director of Operations