“How communities of faith constructing safety and security in the wake of tragic instances of gun violence ”
Given the increase in gun violence within the sacred spaces of congregations, including the shocking high-profile massacres in Charleston, SC and Sutherland Springs, TX, churches are wrestling with issues of safety and security in new ways. These are at once practical questions of how to stay safe in worship as well as sources of theological inquiry into the meaning of security in the context of faith. Clearly, churches are responding in a variety of ways to these challenges. Private organizations and governmental agencies are offering training on church safety, which oftentimes involves forming armed security teams or encouraging concealed carrying of guns by church members. Other congregations seek security without resorting to armed defense.
This project will explore how different congregations are processing these questions of security, questions that engage the very core of their faith commitments. Our team of two academic sociologists and two local clergy from very different contexts (Philadelphia and rural Texas) will engage in a series of conversations intended to identify what key concerns and commitments are shaping the responses of different Christian congregations to the increasing threat of gun violence in churches. These conversations will take place while the team attends a national conference on church security and site visits to clusters of churches in rural Texas and in urban Philadelphia. This collaborative inquiry will help church leaders appreciate their congregations’ vulnerability and to formulate safety strategies that are consistent with their beliefs and traditions.