GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An Ottawa County church is working to prepare its leaders and those at other places of worship for the possibility of an attack.
Recent national headlines involving violence at churches have raised the issue — perhaps most notably the June 2015 attack at a church in Charleston, South Carolina that left nine parishioners dead.
The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office has partnered with Garry Brand, the Safety Ministry leader at Grace Community Church in Hudsonville, to host two training sessions.
The first session will be held on Jan. 28 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The second phase of the training will be a longer workshop held from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 20.
Brand said the workshops won’t focus on telling church leaders what to do but instead will help them broach the issue of putting a plan together for their church.
“I think long term we’re trying to figure out what training we would provide and who we would provide it to,” Brand said. “I don’t think any church should feel, ‘Well, we’re too small or too remote for something like that to happen.’”
Brand is a former assistant prosecutor with a military background. He said he implores other churches to look at the experience and resources available in their congregations.
He said putting safety measures in place is a delicate balance for leaders at places of worship.
“The term is sanctuary … and the idea is you go there to worship,” Brand said. “We have a tough balance where we’re trying to figure out how to provide a safe environment for the congregation but also we don’t want to build a fortress.”
The training is open to leaders at anyone who wants to participate. Brand can be reached at Garry@solagrace.org.