I’ll confess up front that this is not the newsletter article I was expecting to write, given that it’s now November — Thanksgiving month — and that we’re also now just two weeks away from the culmination of our stewardship campaign in support of next year’s budget. I thought I might write about things for which we have cause to be thankful, and how the practice of gratitude is even more important than ever in times like these, when the world seems so tense and divided. Or I thought I might focus on the good news that’s coming from the stewardship side: how we’ve already received just over $99,000 in commitments — more than half-way toward our goal of just over $196,000 — with two weeks still to go in our stewardship season.
But instead I feel that it’s important to address a topic I have never before written about in this context: the stewardship of our safety. Most of you know by now that, during a routine sweep of the Chapel just before securing the building for the night, Public Safety officers from campus recently discovered a homeless man (age 21) hiding out in the women’s restroom. I have recounted the details of that event in a previous email and will not revisit them here.
So, I first want to stress that I do not believe our safety or security is in any immediate risk. For fifty-four years the Chapel has been a place where students and others could come at all times of the day and night to pray or mediate in safety. Though this recent incident was unnerving, that record of more than a half-century of safety remains untarnished. And we trust and believe that this will continue to be true.
That said, as opioid and methamphetamine use have spread to this valley, the demographic profile of this area has changed in ways that do carry security implications campus-wide. And sad as this is to say, last Saturday’s tragic shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh is all the proof we need that even communities of faith can no longer take the issue of safety for granted.
So, with all of that in view, I plan to ask Session when we meet later this month to appoint an Action Team to begin a thorough review of the question of our collective safety. My recommendation will be that this team consists of representatives of Session, the church staff, and the congregation at large.
During this busy holiday season, our first priority will likely be to assess whether we need to take any immediate steps to improve or enhance the security of our buildings during the day. Our staff sometimes work alone in these buildings. So it will be important to hear from them in order to determine whether we need to do anything in the short-term to enhance the security of our buildings. Longer term, and as I have mentioned elsewhere, I hope we will take the opportunity at this moment in our history to develop a comprehensive safety plan, one that not only addresses our safety and security, but also addresses how we might respond to weather and medical emergencies.
Because in this season of gratitude, one thing for which I’m thankful is that the Chapel has always been a place of safety. And I’m certain that we all want it to remain that way.