AUSTIN - We usually gather at places of worship and churches to seek peace and safety.
But following the massacre of more than two dozen people in Sutherland Springs, church leaders are stepping up security.
The Williamson County Sheriff's Office held a security summit for faith leaders Sunday at Celebration Church.
Leaders from hundreds of local churches were there.
Sheriff Robert Chody said he wants to teach them what to do in an active shooter situation and how to create a security team.
"We live in that world now,” said Sheriff Chody.
He asks churches to come up with a plan in case of an active shooter.
1. Create a security team -- with background checks before choosing members.
2. Establish protocol
3. Limit access to the church and worship area during the service.
4. Establish training curriculum that accommodates armed and unarmed responses.
The sheriff’s office said acknowledges that it is likely members of the congregation are already carrying a firearm.
“We're here to say to you as a leader in the faith-based community if you don't want guns, what is your next option should an active shooter or mass murder situation take place?” said Sheriff Chody. “If you do want guns, what is your responsibility? What are the risks involved?”
Celebration Church Pastor Joe Champion said his team constantly scans the parking lot and checks bags.
“We're watching what happens during a service,” said Champion. “Especially a service because in Sutherland, the shooter took advantage of the congregation in that room."
The church also checks for backpacks.
"If someone were to come with a backpack, we're going to ask – can we check that backpack?” said Champion. “If someone has a problem with that, we'll just ask them kindly can you please return that to your car?"
These are difficult questions churches are now grappling with.
Sheriff Chody told KVUE that Sunday's summit at least started the conversation about church security among congregations.
"Maybe not all the answers, but we're having the discussion where our community in Williamson County is well equipped now,” said Sheriff Chody. “Or at least is thinking of a progressive way … of how they can better protect parishioners."
The Williamson County Sheriff's Office said they are planning another summit – possibly with business leaders.
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