Texoma church increases security


BYERS, TX (KAUZ) - The shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas that left 26 people dead and 20 others wounded has a lot of churches reviewing their own security.

Byers First Assembly of God Pastor James Keenum shared how that attack is changing the way they operate when it comes to keeping the congregation safe.

Back in July, the church was at the center of a social media threat, that is the reason the ball is already rolling when it comes to beefing up security.
While the man accused of making terroristic threats against the church was arrested, Pastor Keenum said now more than ever he is working to protect his church family.

"Most of us thought this was something happening in the big cities, or other countries, or other places and all of a sudden it's on our doorstep," said Pastor Keenum.

The door step to a place many come to worship, love and feel safe.

Pastor Keenum has been behind the pulpit for 27 years and said the small town of Byers has a lot in common with Sutherland Springs.

"So it's pretty scary, I don't know it shakes your confidence in people," said Pastor Keenum.

Especially following that social media threat towards his church a few months ago.

"It kind of woke us up to the fact that it could come at any time from any direction," he said. "So we began to take precautions to try to avoid these things or at least be prepared to meet them."

Those steps are already in action, and while Pastor Keenum is working with the Clay County Sheriff to review the church's security, he is no stranger when it comes to knowing how to serve and protect.

The pastor was a Wichita Falls and Oklahoma City police officer for nearly 13 years.

"If anything were to happen God forbid, that we would be more prepared instead of them just bursting in as happened yesterday {Sunday} at that church."

So they have monitors keeping an eye on the doors, hallways and parking lots during service. They also have motion lights outside and double locks on most doors.

"The small things are what really count because at least you have a warning," he said. "You can respond to it, but when they can just walk in and you are not ready, you have no warning and so you can't protect your congregation that way."

He said people also need to talk about what to do should the unthinkable happen. A tough conversation, but one he has already had with his church members.

"How to protect ourselves in a crisis situation, standing up waving your arms screaming is not going to help," he said. "You are going to have to be calm."

The best defense, the power of prayer.

"You're going to have to talk to Jesus, you're going to have to depend on him to protect you," said Pastor Keenum.

He adds while he has already talked to his congregation he is revisiting how leadership is working to keep everyone safe during service this Wednesday and Sunday.

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