Example of Church leadership in response to a crisis
During the worship service on the second week of Advent, December 9, 2018 the children’s choir and Christmas pageant, as well as a baptism, were part of the service.
The Children’s choir had just finished singing and were sitting on the chancel steps when suddenly, immediately in front of the children, a man dressed in bulky clothing and a hat stood and loudly disrupted the service by quoting scripture, twisting it to berate us and our stance on ONA and other issues. And he was not alone. Two others in the rear of the sanctuary started videotaping and later stood outside the church to engage anyone leaving the church. This group had picketed area churches and invaded two other Downers Grove church worship services. They had also been terrorizing Downers Grove High School students by picketing outside their schools displaying graphic abortion pictures.
This happened just five weeks after the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh where 11 people were killed. The threat of violence was on everyone’s mind. The congregation listened in shocked silence for a few moments. Pastor Scott and several members quietly but firmly asked the intruder to leave, blessed him, and escorted him out of the church. We locked the doors and resumed our service, the childrens’ Christmas pageant, and the Baptism.
In response to this attack, we elevated our focus on our values and our beliefs. We held Bible studies to reiterate the reasons we became an ONA church and explored the seven specific texts used against the LGBTQ2IA+ community. We created an active shooter plan with the help of a retired police officer, held special usher meetings, updated security measures and installed an easily accessible 911 phone.
We reached out to other churches who experienced attacks and met with the UCC Fox Valley Association. We took legal action to obtain a restraining order against members of this domestic terrorist group. We hosted a gun violence forum in our sanctuary bringing together individuals from disparate groups and once again, became the focus of hate mail and threats from state militia and rifle groups.
Not every church is bold enough in its mission to be the target of such an attack because of its witness to the world. Because of our visibility in the community, we were. We are proud of our church, its leaders and its members who believe in our values, act on them, and live out our mission in the world around us.
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