ST. PAUL, Minn. — A northern Minnesota bishop says the shooting at a Texas church has made congregations more aware about the need for security plans.
Larry Wohlrabe is the bishop for 228 congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Wohlrabe told Minnesota Public Radio that while most churches have plans for floods or tornadoes, many churches never finish planning or implementing security plans.
More than two dozen people were killed in the Sutherland, Texas attack. The deaths brought about a new sense of urgency around church security, Wohlrabe said.
“It feels like the kind of thing that you know, it could happen anywhere. So I think that it’s really hit home for people,” Wohlrabe said.
There have been more than a dozen shootings in places of worship in the U.S. over the past decade. Some churches in Minnesota have hired professional security, turned to church members who are law enforcement professionals or trained volunteers to look out for signs of trouble.
“We can’t be naive anymore and I think maybe that’s a little bit of what Sutherland and other recent shootings are teaching us,” said Carl Nelson, who is president of Transform Minnesota, an evangelical organization that works with about 300 churches across Minnesota.
About half of those churches have created security plans, Nelson said.
“We live in a society where we have people who suffer mental illness, or people who are angry. Combine that with fairly free access to guns and you end up with a deadly cocktail,” Nelson said.
Adding security plans raises concerns about changes to church communities, Wohlrabe said.
“It impacts the mission and ministry of the church,” he said. “Will we express the love of God to all of our neighbors? Will we start second guessing who we smile at, who we invite to church, who we welcome in?”