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Dear Church, First United Methodist Church of Austin exists to build a community where all people are invited to know God’s love and sent to join God in transforming the world. To accomplish this, First United Methodist Church of Austin must strive to make our church one where all congregants can experience both safety and welcome. I’m writing to give you an update about our approach to both of these responsibilities. Starting back in 2017, the pastors initiated an Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) committee of lay members and staff to define security and safety requirements for First Church. One result of this committee was the addition of a police presence in the Sanctuary foyer on Sunday mornings to provide security and an extra set of eyes on our facilities during our busiest hours. Many thanks to Earl Crane, our EOP Chair and the entire team that worked over 1.5 years to build a comprehensive plan. In 2019, this plan was transitioned to a Security Task Team on staff led by our Director of Operations, Dave Ballbach to implement in partnership with an outside security consultant specializing in church safety. Many key milestones have been achieved over the last six months toward the initial EOP plan. Highlights
  • A fire drill campus-wide evacuation was conducted with Austin Fire Department in November.
  • New security guidelines signs have been placed around campus in classrooms. Please be on the lookout for these!
  • Trainings for staff and security walk throughs with Austin Fire Department (AFD) and Austin Police Department (APD) on campus have been conducted.
  • Usher/Greeter security training took place on Sunday, January 12 with 46 Ushers/Greeters in attendance (thank you Ushers/Greeters)!
  • More plans are underway to secure our Sanctuary on Sunday mornings.
Now, a word about our welcome. Churches all over the country are having to consider the best way to provide a safe place for worship in an increasingly violent and fear-filled world. While I do want to encourage all to be on alert for anything suspicious, I also want to caution you against letting fear overcome compassion. None of us is ever guaranteed 100% safety. We live by faith, following a savior who told us over and over again, “Do not be afraid.” In our day to day life at church, all of us have a responsibility to balance the work of both welcome and security. While all churches are called to be a haven for those who are suffering, at First Church we have a particular responsibility to welcome our homeless neighbors as an integral part of our church family. These neighbors share the same feelings and fears that all of us do, and many come to our church seeking rest for their bodies and souls, as well as a community where they can be treated with dignity and respect. As followers of Jesus, we must offer the same compassion to everyone who walks in the door, even if they make some a little uncomfortable. All are welcome at FUMC, as long as they are behaving safely and respectfully. Our ushers, pastors, and officer are trained to recognize signs of unsafe behavior, so we encourage you to report any concerns directly to them. If you see anything suspicious, don’t hesitate to let one of us know. At FUMC, we are a gun-free campus and our armed police officer is the only person onsite during worship that should be carrying a concealed handgun. If you want to learn more about the work of the Security Task Force, please visit fumcaustin.org/security for a detailed timeline and resources. Thank you to everyone for being attentive to this important work of safety and welcome! Your dedication to making people feel secure, welcome, and comfortable in our worship services is so appreciated and crucial to the success of our mission. Gratefully, Pastor Taylor