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.