Houston pastors learn to shield congregations from danger

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BE PREPARED: The message of HPD's pastor seminar was to have a plan and be ready to act, even at church.

For Houston's faith community, the concerns about safety are mounting.

Local pastors turned out in the dozens to learn how to protect themselves and their congregations at a special workshop hosted today by the Houston Area Pastors Council and HPD.

Discussions about safety in churches is certainly a timely issue, and we met one local pastor at the seminar who said he's been taking it seriously for years.

"We have to love people, but we have to be on the ready," said Edward Buford, senior pastor at Sonrise Church on Houston's northeast side.

At every service, he has security. Outside. Inside. Buford is even among those who is armed, whether he's behind the pulpit or performing other services inside the church.

"I've been criticized forever for being armed. Pistol packing preacher," Buford said. "No, no, I'm a preacher that believes in protecting his congregation."

His congregation of 200 includes homeless people who live at the adjacent shelter, and he admits his neighborhood isn't the safest. But he says regardless, one can never take security for granted even in a room called a sanctuary.

"Part of ministry now is dealing with people that are hurting. Hurt people. Hurt people," Buford said.

He understands the message HPD was trying to impress on others today. In light of the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, they want pastors to be prepared.

"What we really promote to people is that if there is a way to get out of there, go ahead and run. Get out of that area," says Houston Police Officers Union president-elect Joe Gamaldi. "If you can't get out, hide. And if it comes down to and it's between you and that active shooter, you need to fight."

It's a lesson Pastor Buford hopes spreads like the gospel.

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