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Preparing for the Unthinkable
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By Arthur F. Blinci

Once again we mourn as another senseless act of violence has shaken our country with the deaths of nine innocent worshipers at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. As Seventh-day Adventist Christians we realize this appalling tragic event it is yet another sign that Jesus must be coming soon!  In Matthew 24:42, Jesus speaks of a homeowner who must be on guard and watchful because a thief might come and cause harm. Just as we must be watchful and ready for Christ’s soon return, we must also be watchful in our congregations for incidents of violence that can occur at any time or any place – even during the Wednesday evening prayer meeting Bible study. 
 
In his book, Evil Invades the Sanctuary, author Carl Chinn writes, “Unlike other organizations, Bible-based entities struggle with the perceived conflict between divine protection and active security planning. But there is no conflict; just because we pray for God’s protection before driving does not mean we speed or dismiss the value of seatbelts. Likewise, faith-based organizations must intentionally provide for the safety of staff and visitors.”  Over 970 Incidents of deadly force violence in churches have taken the lives of over 550 individuals since 1999; with five of these incidents occurring at Seventh-day Adventists facilities.[1]
 
What steps has your congregation taken to enhance its awareness and preparedness against violent acts? Let’s start by reviewing five action steps you can implement at your church:
 
  1. “If you see something – say something” -- Watchfulness on the part of deacons, greeters and ushers can often identify the first signs of danger and give warning to others.
  2. Invite local police or sheriff officers to visit your church and become acquainted with its layout and facilities. Ask them questions to help you understand the type of response that can be expected in the event of an emergency.
  3. – Review with your church board the importance of your congregation being prepared in order to respond properly in an emergency.
  4. – Working in cooperation with local first responders identify evacuation routes, lock-down procedures and shelter in place safe zones. Practice your emergency plan with church leaders.
5.   Pray for guidance, wisdom and the Lord’s protection of your congregation – We need the Lord’s guidance as we develop our safety plans. He expects us to be prepared and do our part, but we must always rely on Him to be our ultimate source of safety and protection.
 
Arthur F. Blinci is assistant to the president for Adventist Risk Management
 
Resources
Adventist Risk Management has provided several resources to help assist congregations develop emergency plans for acts of violence and other types of incidents. We encourage all pastors and church leaders to review the following resources available at www.adventistrisk.org