breaking news

James Miller avoids murder conviction, but found guilty of lesser charge

Area churches look for ways to be safe and welcoming


Highlights

“I guess every pastor now has to think about these scenarios,” said Catalyst of Austin pastor Steve Blake.

Former FBI assistant director, Williamson County sheriff recommend churches consider a security plan.

When Steve Blake, lead pastor and founder of Catalyst of Austin heard the news of the mass shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on Sunday, he immediately felt a gut-wrenching pain. He thought of all the pain and loss, and couldn’t help but think of his own East Austin church.

“While churches have always been a place of comfort, hope and peace, unfortunately they’ve also been the epicenter of attacks and demonstrations of evil,” he said.

In the aftermath of what’s being described as the largest church shooting in modern American history, Austin-area faith leaders are looking for ways that their houses of worship can be places that offer safety while welcoming people with open arms.

“I guess every pastor now has to think about these scenarios,” Blake said. “It’s unfortunate, but a reality of the world we live in now.”

RELATED: What to know about Devin Patrick Kelley and gun laws

Former FBI Counterintelligence Assistant Director Frank Figliuzzi recommended churches consider a security plan that takes into account the size of the facility, the congregation and the neighborhood, among other things. “If you’re a church leader,” he said on MSNBC, “it’s time for you to sit down with your board, your elders, your parishioners and discuss that security plan.”

In Williamson County, Sheriff Robert Chody on Monday announced plans to organize a summit to offer security tips to churches of all sizes.

Although interested in a potential summit, Brian Ferguson, a minister at the Unitarian Universalist Wildflower Church in South Austin said that perhaps what would be more helpful would be a summit addressing the culture of violence.

“There’s a bigger problem than just churches,” Ferguson said. “We need to transform the culture. Try to bring more love in the world. I don’t know what it’ll take to change things.”

PHOTOS: 26 killed in church shooting in Sutherland Springs

Hours after 26 people were killed in the Sutherland Springs church shooting, state Attorney General Ken Paxton said Texans can help prevent mass shootings by carrying concealed guns.

“All I can say is in Texas at least we have the opportunity to have conceal carry,” he told Fox News. “And so … there’s always the opportunity that a gunman will be taken out before he has the opportunity to kill very many people.”

Griff Martin, senior pastor at the First Baptist Church of Austin, said in an email that the “Gospel response to violence is and always has been resurrection and it’s time as the church that we use our resurrection voice to remind the world there is a better way forward, a path of wholeness and good will, not the path of brokenness, division and violence that plague us today. We can do better and the church needs to raise her voice to demand that we do so.”

The church will hold a prayer vigil for the shooting victims at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Donations to cover medical and funeral expenses for the Sutherland Springs church members will be accepted.

“It’s a hard time to be a minister,” said Ferguson, whose church has been reviewing its safety measures since the mass shooting Oct. 1 in Las Vegas. “People are really searching for stability.”

INTERACTIVE: Mapping 51 years of mass shootings in America



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

James Miller avoids murder conviction, but guilty of lesser charge
James Miller avoids murder conviction, but guilty of lesser charge

A Travis County jury found James Miller not guilty of murder in the September 2015 stabbing of Daniel Spencer, but found him guilty of a lesser felony charge of criminally negligent homicide. The verdict came down Tuesday, about an hour after the jury signaled it had reached an impasse following nine hours of deliberation. The trial’s sentencing...
This Texas high school has a lettuce club and yeah, all they do is eat lettuce
This Texas high school has a lettuce club and yeah, all they do is eat lettuce

"Arugular behavior" is right. According to the Dallas Morning News, a group of teenagers at Heritage High School in Frisco are part of a club with a singular purpose: to gather once a year and eat an entire head of lettuce.  Each year at the lettuce-eating race, members of the Lettuce Club compete to eat a head of lettuce as fast as...
Two weeks out, Euphoria music festival still lacks county permit
Two weeks out, Euphoria music festival still lacks county permit

Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty on Tuesday took a stern tone with the organizer of the Finding Euphoria music festival, which is coming up in two weeks but still does not have a permit from the county. “Listen man, there’s a real clear road map as to how to get here on this deal,” Daugherty said. “So if this is your...
Víctima de tiroteo en Waffle House creció cerca de Austin
Víctima de tiroteo en Waffle House creció cerca de Austin

Una de las cuatro personas que murieron en un tiroteo el domingo 22 de abril en un restaurante Waffle House afuera de Nashville, Tennessee, creció en el condado de Hays y tiene familia en el área de Austin, según oficiales de la Policía Metropolitana de Memphis y del distrito escolar. Joe R. Perez, de 20 años, fue...
Williamson County joins regional housing foundation despite objections

Williamson County commissioners last week voted to approve joining a regional housing foundation, despite objections from some residents who said the organization receives unfair tax breaks on the apartments it builds. The commissioners unanimously approved joining the Texas Housing Foundation at their April 17 meeting. They also appointed architect...
More Stories