Open Arms, Safe Communities

The Theology of Church Security

Jeanie Garrett

Aug/2021, 128 Pages, Paperback, 5.5 x 8.5

ISBN-13: 9781640653221



How do we reconcile the need to create safe places for worship and community with a theology of welcome and inclusion?

Most houses of worship know they need a safety plan, but leadership often resists the tough conversations of restricting access and locking more doors. This seems contrary to proclaiming that church is a welcoming, open place for all. There are books, manuals, guides, and articles advising how to create a safety plan for faith-based institutions, but none of them wrestles with the theological questions that come up during the process.

By exploring these questions, faith-based institutions of all kinds can better tackle the challenges of creating a safety plan with more thought, insight, and confidence. Understanding that incidents of violence are impossible to ignore, candor about the firearms debate will allow for deeper empathy and clearer direction in decision-making. Throughout this book, the author encourages leadership to reconcile having ultimate faith in God with taking reasonable means to protect ourselves and those in our care.

JEANIE GARRETT created and led St. David’s Safety Task force in Austin, Texas, and has trained with the Department of Homeland Security and the Austin Police Department. She has led volunteer trainings, and created staff safety manuals and volunteer guidelines. Prior to her work at St. David’s, she spent ten years as a television news reporter. She lives in Austin, Texas.

“Jeanie Garrett empowers the reader to release fear and embrace the theology of a loving God who walks with those of us who wrestle withwhat a safe church should look like. She does an amazing job encompassing safety, gun violence, and systemic racism.”—The Rev. Kathleen Walker, missioner for Black Ministries, Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina

“This comprehensive collection encourages and supports my understanding both theologically and practically on the importance of an established plan of security in all places where there are public gatherings, most importantly our houses of worship.”—Rev. Dave Ballbach, Director of Operations, First United Methodist Church of Austin

“Balancing issues of safety and welcome and looking at the theology involved in making practical and faithful decisions is the subject of Jeanie Garrett’s Open Arms, Safe Communities, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.”—The Very Rev. Lucinda Laird, Dean, the American Cathedral in Paris

“Jeanie’s well-researched book provides a strong faith-based exploration of the current risk management challenges we face as a society as well as actionable recommendations faith leaders can take to open their doors while protecting their flock.”—Earl Crane, PhD, CISSP, Former Director, White House National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security

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