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Local churches re-evaluate safety after mass shooting in Texas

Churches have been stepping up security since Charleston church shooting

ROANOKE, Va. – In light of Sunday's mass shooting at a church in Texas, some churches in southwest Virginia are re-evaluating their safety.

"Every minister's worst nightmare," First Baptist Church of Roanoke Senior Pastor Dr. Bryan Smith said.

"We grew up thinking churches were safe places and they still are, overwhelmingly they are," Fincastle Baptist Church senior pastor Kevin Cummings said.

Both men are trying to figure out how to deal with the tragedy in Texas.

"While our doors are open to everyone, we also have a responsibility to protect our members and our guests," Cummings said.

They said it's all about balance.

"Just because we are trusting the Lord doesn't mean we should be woefully and willfully ignorant of things that we can do to enhance our own protection," Smith said.

That's why they've been stepping up security since the Charleston church shooting in 2015.

"Plans and personnel including active off-duty Roanoke city policemen," Smith said.

Rick Arrington teaches seminars on church safety across the commonwealth. He said it's important to implement security measures that aren't obvious.

"The church by nature is a soft target, so we can make it a less-soft target but it should not look like a fortified city," Arrington said.

To do that, he said every church should establish a safety team to look out for suspicious behavior.

"We teach them to watch the parking lots during, before the services, after the services," Arrington said.

Instead of driving people away, local church leaders hope this tragedy will bring people together.

"No matter how many layers of security a church might present and plan for, our confidence ultimately is in the Lord," Smith said.