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My cell phone beeped this morning as I was walking into church.  CNN breaking news reported that Fred Winters, pastor of First Baptist Church, Maryville, Illinois, had been shot and killed in the church sanctuary.  Another church shooting, this one seemingly without apparent motive.  An act of violence in a place dedicated to love.

Two years ago, a man high either on alcohol or drugs entered our sanctuary during morning worship.  Our members knew him, but allowed him access probably because they were caught completely off-guard by his behavior and condition.  Fortunately, he got up and left the sanctuary without causing harm, but that incident could just as easily have turned out badly.

Sadly, churches need protections against random acts of violence.  Ours has none right now, but we probably need to have this conversation.  What is your church doing in the area of security or emergency planning?  How do you handle unwelcome guests, or difficult incidents?  Share your thoughts and you might just help some other congregation avoid a future tragedy.

Our hearts go out to the Winters’ family, and the congregation of First Baptist Church in Maryville, Illinois.