CHESTERFIELD CO., (WRIC) – The Chesterfield County Police Department is inviting area church leaders to its Safety Conference for Places of Worship next Wednesday.
“Obviously we want to be doing our best to make sure people, our members and guests, are as safe as they can be,” said Gene Cornett, Pastor at Bethany Place Baptist Church.
Members of Bethany Place Baptist Church will be attending the event. Police decided to create the forum after receiving dozens of concerned calls in the wake of the Charleston shooting.
“Unfortunately places of worship are just a natural target sometimes for different groups,” said Cpl. Scott Gordon with the Chesterfield County Police Department.
They’ll address all kinds of issues like how to safety store cash collections and how to respond in an emergency situation.
“I think the biggest concern would be for me, as a pastor of a church this size, is response time. If something happens, how long would it take for EMS or police to respond,” said Michael Jones, the pastor of Village of Faith Ministries.
Members of Jones’ congregation will also be at the conference.
“I think the biggest thing is just put everyone on alert. Like if someone comes in in the middle of the summer with a long jacket on, we may want to go up to that individual,” said Jones.
Chesterfield police will be unveiling its new “Worship Watch.”
“To say ‘hey, we want to reach out to you and if you need some services, you need us to come out and do a security assessment of your building, you want some safety programs taught in your place of worship, we’d be glad to do that free of charge.’ It also allows us to send out a newsletter. To send up some warnings if something comes to that’s immediate or they need to know about right away,” said Cpl. Gordon.
“We do have conversations about these things. We’re alert, and we’re not all just sitting with the backs to the door, and we’re paying attention to what’s going on,” said Cornett.
Police say it’s up to an individual church to decide whether or not they want to prohibit guns inside.
If you’re interested in attending the conference, you can still register by contacting Cpl. Gordon. His email is GordonKS@chesterfield.gov.
The conference is Wednesday, August 26, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Chesterfield Career & Technical Center. That’s at 13900 Hull Street Road.