A lone gunman killed 26 people and injured dozens more during a Sunday service at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. A few miles down the road in the small town of Stockdale, pastors are looking for ways to comfort their congregations: parishioners who are not only grieving for their neighbors, but who may also be concerned that their “sanctuary” is not immune to these horrific events.
Kenneth Clapp, pastor of the Stockdale Church of Christ, said in addition to being shocked by the news of the shooting, he was concerned about the safety of his own church after reading rumors on Facebook and Twitter saying that multiple shooters were going from church to church.
Clapp said that although his church had been planning to discuss safety measures for some time, there was never a pressing need for the meeting – until now.
“It was always something we thought of as ‘the right thing to do’ but there was never that pressure of ‘oh, we need to do this,” Clapp says.
Clapp says that he sees guns as part of the culture in south Texas, but in the wake of Sunday’s shooting, he can’t help but be concerned about the presence of concealed weapons at his church’s services.
“I don’t ask and they don’t tell, but I’m sure that any given Sunday I have three or four congregants that carry, because they carry all the time,” Clapp says.
In addition, Clapp says that he thinks the issue of mental health has been underrepresented in the past, and that it should be at the forefront of the conversation about the shooting.
“As a minister who takes care of families, I can see how mental health [has] been a growing crisis in our communities,” Clapp says. At the same time, he says, it’s been largely ignored.
Clapp says the advice he had given to his children about how to protect their own safety seem useless after Sunday’s shooting inside a church.
“When it occurs in a church when people are worshipping, that advice all went out the window, because people were aware of their surroundings and were where they needed to be,” Clapp says. “In America, we’re so sheltered [that] we don’t expect things like this to happen. A big part of my conversation with my boys was to say, ‘guys, you need to expect it.’”
Written by Rachel Zein.