PORTLAND, OR (February 1, 2017) – The disruption caused by a hate group during a worship service last Sunday at a small Covenant church raises question about security.
During a communal prayer time at Access Covenant Church here, a man who had arrived with four other men and a teenage boy walked to the front of the church and began shouting that Catholics and Muslims were going to hell. The group had earlier stood outside a local Catholic congregation and yelled at the Hispanic parishioners as they arrived.
The intrusion left some attendees at Access shaken and emotional. “Of course everyone was thinking about what happened at the AME church in Charleston,” said pastor Joel Sommer, referring to June 17, 2015, when Dylan Roof, a 21-year-old white supremacist shot to death nine congregants and wounded three others at a prayer meeting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina,.
Access meets at a local community center. Pastor Joel Sommer said Tuesday that he was talking with city and denominational officials about what might be done for the future.
Superintendent Greg Yee posted on the Northwest Conference Facebook page, “I was aghast when Pastor Joel told me what happened. This premeditated aggressive behavior to disrupt a worship service frankly terrifies me. Access folks were crying and truly fearing if the men would get more violent. This is the brazen spirit that continues to be emboldened that we as the church are NOT ok with. I am praying that you are feeling how close to home this is and for our moral outrage and action to rise.”
In an interview, Yee added, “More than ever churches need to be prepared for these types of emergencies. We continue to encourage our churches to develop an emergency preparedness plan.”
Yee pointed to an emergency disaster plan written by Newport Covenant Church in Bellevue, Washington, as a model for other churches to work from.
Sharon Davis, who has headed up the disaster preparedness ministry at Oakdale Covenant Church in Chicago, said, “We can’t sit by and think it’s not going to happen to us. Congregations need to start planning for the ‘what if.’ What will we do if an active shooter walks into worship service? What will we do if a group of protesters show up on our campus? Disaster preparedness allows us to sit down with a small group of members, and community first responders and have a conversation about the ‘what ifs.’”
See a previous story, “Is Your Church Prepared for a Disaster?”