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Going to church armed and ready

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In light of Wednesday's fatal shooting at a Charleston, South Carolina church that left 9 people dead, the topic of church security is being addressed across the country and here in the Tennessee Valley.

"If you can't be safe in the house of God, where can you be safe?"

The Reverend Pedro Basden, who pastors at Chattanooga's Warren's Chapel AME is grappling with the question that many pastors are dealing with today, in the wake of 9 people killed at the Emanuel AME Church of Charleston, South Carolina.

How to make a house of worship both welcoming and secure?

"Congregations need to be smart in being able to strike that balance and preferably through prayer and consultation we'll find that balance because a sanctuary is just that, a sanctuary," says Basden, after a prayer vigil noon Thursday at St. Paul's AME Church off Chattanooga's Williams Street.

"The security of the church has been a question that we have been encountering for some time," says Senior Pastor Ken Duggan of Dallas Bay Baptist Church in Hixson, Tennessee.

10 years ago, Duggan, called upon church members in law enforcement to serve as the church's version of an air marshal.
They're armed, present, and watching.

"We have people at different levels of law enforcement who attend our church who are here on any given Sunday," explains Duggan. "And in some instances, there is more than one and I'm aware each time that they are armed." Pastor Basden, while concerned about his congregation's security, is hesitant to embrace a so-called "church marshal".

"We don't want people shying away from church because of their safety," said Basden." So, we're going to be looking into all possibilities of how we can sure the church is a safe place so people can come congregate and worship their God."

Duggan speculates that many in his church community may be unaware of the so-called "church marshals", but adds they've had no security issues since the protocol was quietly enacted.

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