Crisis in the Church

Last Thursday, we had an incident in the church office. It's left us all a little shaken. It required a staff meeting yesterday to talk about how we create a safe environment. The conversation turned toward how we need to be more vigilant in locking the doors and keeping people out. Sigh.

A man moved into our neighborhood two weeks ago. He's HIV positive and must be suffering from other ailments that have not been named to us. He doesn't have any resources, including food and decent health care. He showed up in worship two weeks ago and then again on the following Monday. I was at a meeting all morning. I missed this first office visit, where my colleague toured him around our city to acquire a bus pass. It seems his social worker has abadoned him at a location that promised a bus route. Our church is off the bus route. He lives across the street. This doesn't add up. As far as I can tell, it's a phantom bus. Alas.

Last Thursday, he missed the bus. He came into our offices wanting a ride. He'd been given one before. He assumed we would provide one again. The secretary didn't understand his request. She asked if he wanted to wait for our Outreach Coordinator who was in a meeting. He decided to wait. Forty five minutes later, he was still waiting and visibily angry. The Outreach Coordinator finally appeared but not before this man escalated into rage. It was scary. Perhaps we should just lock the doors, and yet...

My heart breaks for this man. His anger comes from so many doors being slammed in his face over the years. And yet, that doesn't mean that we risk the individual safety of anyone in our building -- including the preschool kids downstairs. How do we create a safe church that is open to all? How do we address needs while making it clear what it is that we are able to do during times of crisis?

Right now, I need wisdom. It seems like every safe church resource that exists is to protect our children by screening staff and volunteers with bakcground checks. I'm not scared that someone is going to wander into the church with a gun -- though this has made the news in other churches. I'm more fearful that our staff will find themselves feeling compromised or worse. That's not justice either. And so, I sigh.

1 comment:

Erica said...

One little practical thing for the kiddos in the preschool...

Probably, in order to run a preschool, you already have to have certain areas sort of isolated for them to meet certain DCFS regulations.

A few weeks ago, we had someone walk down the hall to our preschool and just stand outside the door and watch the kids. It had the potential to be creepy.

technically, we have these doors at either end of the hallway where the preschool is that were installed to meet some government regulations. They're never closed, and people are in and out of that hall all day.

But, that incident creeped us out enough that we decided to just check what it would cost to install keypad locks on those doors so that you can only get into the hallway if you type in the password.

We've been shocked to learn it will only be $800!!!

Now, it's not really completely safer, it'll be a little inconvenient, but it's a tiny thing.

But, as for the whole open church thing overall, it is really tough.

Maybe it's part of the risk we open ourselves to in ministry. We just have to think about how to be smart about it.

I always think Jesus was open to being vulnerable with people, and approachable. But I also think he wasn't advocating being stupid. (Wise as serpents!)

Grace peace and strength of the Spirit to you and the staff!