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Faith communities in Indianapolis prepare for dangerous situations

Posted at 12:26 AM, Aug 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-23 00:26:46-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Local and national law enforcement are preparing to teach religious leaders what to do when faced with one of the worst possible situations.

This weekend places of worship will learn how to prevent and prepare for active shooter attacks. At least one Indianapolis church is making changes to its safety plan, after a recent close call with gunfire.

There used to be a saying, "the doors of the church are always open," but after numerous tragedies in public places around the globe, security has changed, and now the doors of the church are always locked.

"We no longer open our doors," Rev. Clarence Moore, with New Era Church, said. "You have to buzz in and tell us who you are now to come through our doors."

Security is now top of mind in American churches as mass shootings continue to occur in places police call 'soft targets,' where it is easy to harm a lot of people in a single place.

"Unfortunately, in these days and times though, we are a welcoming community we have to take certain precautions now as a result of the gun violence," Reverend Moore said.

Reverend Moore is the Lead Pastor of New Era Church — a prominent place of worship in the black community — located next to I-65 just north of Downtown Indianapolis. Those characteristics alone make the church a potential target.

Combine that with a few recent experiences and the church is getting proactive, hiring security and practicing for the worst.

"We've had a series of things that have a caused us to up our security... One was right after church... we had a member coming through the door and all of a sudden a bullet comes through the door," Moore said. "When someone shoots at a church, that tells you the kind of society we live in."

With experience and reality in mind, members of the church security team will be listening carefully to the advice given by police at this weekend's active shooter seminar.

Donna Hayes, the church's head of security and longtime Indianapolis police officer, has made changes to the building safety plan. Including limiting access to doors, patrolling the church during services and teaching church members — including children — how to run, fight, and hide.

Hayes warns danger could walk in at any minute and preaches beign both protected and prepared.

"What I would say to a church is that they need to be prepared and look at South Carolina," Hayes said. "Look at the Walmart's, the large department stores or the nearest McDonald's. It has happened and touched everyone in this nation and in this world."

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the FBI are urging clergy and security leaders from all faith communities to take advantage of Sunday's training.

The training is free and will be hosted at the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation on Meridian Street at 3 p.m.

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