Security teams keep parishioners safe
Lawtonian Robert Gorrell entered the ministry over 35 years ago when every church was unlocked all the time.
"Now, our building is locked," he said. "It's a real different climate."
Gorrell serves as the senior minister at Centenary United Methodist Church, 704 Southwest D, where he has brought church members together to not only worship, pray and eat, but also to train for emergencies.
"You just need to think about the safety of your faith community. That has to be a priority," he said.
Other churches in Lawton, including Bethlehem Baptist Church, 602 Northwest Arlington, and Cameron Baptist Church, 2621 Southwest C, have also adopted security measures to keep their members and guests safe.
Gorrell, as well as Darrell Morris, the business administrator at Bethlehem Baptist, and Dennis Dawson, the education pastor at Cameron Baptist, said they have organized security teams.
Those teams are comprised of church members who regularly meet to discuss protocol for emergencies.
Emergency situations are not limited to active shooters and violent intruders; the word "emergency" applies to medical, environmental and accidental events, Gorrell said.
On any given Sunday, security team members should be prepared to respond to a fire inside the church walls, a heart attack in the pews or a tornado out the window.
"Are you prepared for those kind of things?" Gorrell asked. "You've got to take care of those things in advance. If you don't have a plan, it can be disastrous."
Forming a security team
An initial step in the planning process is to form a security team.
Some security team members at Bethlehem Baptist have backgrounds in the military or law enforcement, according to Morris, who served in the military for 14 years.
"We have armed security members who are licensed to carry," he said. "We have undercover police officers that are on the Lawton PD (police department) who worship with us."
Chief of Lawton Police James Smith attends Bethlehem Baptist, and he has given briefings to the security team, Morris said.
At Cameron Baptist, two church members serve as "incident co-commanders," Dawson said. One co-commander is a police officer who heads up security, and the other co-commander is a recently retired firefighter who handles health-related incidents.
Locking doors, buzzing in
Additional steps in the planning process include locking exterior doors during services, assigning a security team member to stand at the main entrance during service and continuing to keep exterior doors locked throughout the week, even though the church is open to the public.