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Churches look to police for ways to safely worship after Texas shooting

RICHMOND, Va. -- Area churches are looking to the Richmond Police Department for ways to worship safely after Sunday’s mass shooting in a Texas church that killed 26 and injured 20.

The RPD is hosting a “Places of Worship Safety & Awareness Forum.”

“We formulated a forum just to make them aware of how they can prepare and be more safe during their services,” said Richmond Police Lt. Ken Roane. “Churches just want to do better and serve their members and providing a safe environment where everybody can be comfortable.”

The biannual event that has been running since 2012, offers ways for churches to prevent violence, recognize threats, and develop action plans while being hospitable.

“I think it increases their comfort level about what they are doing and how they are protecting their congregation and also allows them the opportunity to welcome people and be comfortable in the way they are welcoming them,” said Lt. Roane.

“The first plan of action for safety is your greeters and your hosts,” said Lt. Roane. “We encourage the greeter and hosts to speak and have eye to eye contact with people coming in to attend the service and we also ask they walk around the parking lots in and around hallways of the church before during and after service.”

Richmond’s Mount Tabor Baptist Church Pastor Dr. Herbert Ponder says his congregation has benefited from the program and will attend this month’s event especially after the tragedy in Texas.

Dr. Herbert Ponder

“These recent events make us wary, watchful, but the Bible does tell us to watch and pray so we also must be watchful,” said Pastor Ponder.

The pator recently formed a safety ministry and says he will do whatever it takes to keep his 250 parishioners safe while making everyone feel welcome.

“We have to consider everything,” said Pastor Ponder. “We have to look at what the options are and everything has a cost attached to it so we have to be mindful of how we can make sure our congregation is cared for and safe so we can come and do what we are called to do and serve this community the best we can. Church is supposed to be very open, welcoming, we want to make sure everyone has access open door policy.”

The four-hour forum is being held November 18 at 10 a.m. at the Richmond Police Training Academy at 1202 West Graham Road in Richmond. For more information contact Kimberly Cheatham-McClarin at 804-646-6754 or by email at kimberly.cheatham-mcclarin@richmondgov.com. If you would like to register for the event, click here.