Local Athens Church Still a Safe Haven for Church Members
Currently, the residents of Sutherland Springs, Texas are trying to put their community back together. The mass shooting in Sutherland Springs rocked the nation. However, one church in Athens, Ga will not be moved. Pastor David Mills of Beech Haven Baptist Church, located on West Broad St, says that his congregation still feels safe attending church despite the horrific incident that took place in Sutherland Springs. “They feel safe. They are upset about what happened in Sutherland Springs, Texas, but they feel safe.” He continues, “Beech Haven is far more secure than most of the places they have frequented.”
According to Mills, Beech Haven has made only a few changes to their security and emergency plans. “Since the Sutherland Springs, Texas massacre, we have reviewed our plans and attempted to identify ‘holes’ in it.”
Mills says that their security and emergency plan includes a few modifications to spaces for children and students. This is included with their already existing of more than 50 security cameras, people guarding church entries and active shooter response procedures.
When asked if he would allow his congregation to bring guns and other weapons to services, Mills seemed to be on board with the idea. “Of course. As long as staff members follow the laws of the state of Georgia, we are fine with this, and view the presence far more preferable than banning weapons.” Mills says that Beech Haven has members that are retired or active military personnel who are highly trained in security and combat.
They also have members who are in law enforcement, hunters, and marksmen and marks women. “I couldn’t keep them from bringing weapons if I wanted to, and I do not want to.” Regarding his congregation members he says, “I care too much about them to make them ‘sitting ducks’ for evil or deranged people who might want to harm them. The presence of weapons factors into our security plan.”
Weapons or no weapons, the shooting in Sutherland Springs is considered the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history. The shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, shot and killed 25 people. Their ages ranging from 18 months to 77-years-old.
Pastor Mills reassures that these incidences are rare and believes that nothing of the sort would occur at Beech Haven. “We have plans in place to address these issues and have taken multiplied precautions to handle them. Besides the police precinct and sheriff’s office, this is most likely the safest venue our members will frequent.”