Downtown church starts 'new normal' with armed security

Bethel Church hires armed uniformed security following Texas mass shooting

Following Texas mas shooting, Bethel Church hires armed security and police officers
Following Texas mas shooting, Bethel Church hires armed security and police officers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In the wake of the recent mass shooting in Sutherland, Texas, where a gunman opened fire and 26 people were killed, local churches have been reassessing their security protocols. 

The Bethel Church in Downtown is one of several in Jacksonville adding to its security team.

News4Jax visited the church Sunday as it rolled out new armed security measures. 
The security was very visible. Regular church security and JSO officers were on hand for the service. Some members said they understand but are heartbroken that armed security is needed in a house of God.

“It’s protection, and we’re serving the Lord, and we’re being protected,” member Phyllis Livingston said. 

As members showed up to the service, they saw a JSO cruiser out front. The church told News4Jax earlier this week that while they rely on God to protect them, they also want to be practical. 

“It’s good because (of) all the violence that’s going on,” member Laterryio Carrington said. “Look what happened in North Carolina; then look what happened the other day.”

Other church members said they were saddened that somewhere like a church would need security, but no one said they were completely against the idea.

“I really don’t feel like we should have to do that in a house of God,” member Yvette Primus said. “When you go to worship you don’t want to be so uncomfortable. But I understand why they need to do it because everything that’s going on in the world.”

It’s not just security guards that churches are utilizing. For example, backpacks are not allowed inside Bethel Church and people won’t be allowed to walk near the pulpit during the sermon.

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