GREENFIELD, Ind. – Officials at the Park Chapel Christian Church say beginning in January they will be “enhancing” their safety strategy to include a security team of armed guards.
According to director of ministries, Scott Kern, the team will consist of 10 local law enforcement officers who are also church members. They will coordinate with church officials, wear plain clothes and carry their weapons during assigned services. There will also be 10 civilians who won’t be armed, but will help to watch doors and other church entrances while communicating on two way radios.
“We’re hoping that it won’t be very noticeable to the congregation, it’ll mostly be us knowing where people are and what our responsibilities are. And again, we’re watching entrances, we’re watching exits, if somebody were to come in the building then we’ll have a plan in place to make sure we can deal with that,” Kern said.
While Kern says the church was already in the process of coming up with an enhanced security plan, the move is something that was expedited following the mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Originally, the church started having a local law enforcement officer in a marked vehicle park outside of church doors. Now, they say they want to be able to provide the highest level of security indoors.
“We want to make sure people are safe, and they feel safe when they come to church on Sunday,” Kern said.
One of the members of the 10-person armed team is Brad Burkhart, the Chief Deputy for the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department. Burkhart has been a longtime member of Park Chapel and frequently helps to train other churches and organizations on how to keep their venues safe.
“It is a major concern and it should be for everyone,” he said. “It’s not just necessarily the large churches like park chapel that are concerned even the smaller ones are concerned as well.”
Burkhart says that it’s unfortunate that armed security for church venues become necessary, but adds that it’s a reflection of the world we now live in.
While Kern says it’s possible other members of the congregation will also be carrying weapons during the Sunday services. He asks that those members leave the security efforts to the assigned teams.
Kern emphasizes that the new plan isn’t just about having armed worshipers in the congregation. It’s about having the right people that possess the training and experience providing safety and peace of mind.