John Ray was in Charleston, S.C. visiting with pastors about their church shooting a year ago when he heard the news of the Texas shooting.
"It was like they were re-living their own tragedy," said Ray, Destiny Life's preacher.
He returned home to Claremore to attend a meeting of the Claremore Ministerial Alliance where discussions were had with the police department about what the next steps should be.
"We wanted to have a discussion about what houses of worship need to do to be prepared in the event of something happening. A lot of the discussion was looking at how to be prepared and vigilant, and the need to be aware of what's going on. We talked about having people that are dedicated on Sunday morning's to being aware of behavioral patterns and noticing people and that kind of thing so that everything is targeted toward identifying, de-escalating and not allowing things to get to a point where someone is hurt," Ray said. "Chief Brown talked to us about how to begin that process and about equipping our people to be more prepared on Sunday mornings."
He said Chief Brown also wanted to hear from the pastors about what measures they already had in place.
"Thankfully, across the board, everyone was doing something — different levels, but everyone is doing something," he said.
When it comes to church security, Ray said, everyone has different ideas of what that looks like.
"It seems crazy to think we're going to arm people on Sunday morning. That's not the goal or the intention. It's not having plain-clothes people in the congregation that are armed — that's not the goal. But there are other things we can do," he said. "For example, one of the best weapons you can use to deter someone or de-escalate a situation is a fire extinguisher and I never thought of that. It's not going to hurt anyone, but it will definitely stop you. It's about deterring, not equipping every church with their own 10-man SWAT team."
The security and safety measures will be as varied as the churches using them.
The steps may be different, but Ray said the goal is the same.
"Ultimately the intent is to make every house of worship in Claremore a safe place to go and to worship God. That's the goal, to feel safe when you go to church, no matter which church you choose to go to," he said.
Ray said over the years he's seen a few people become disgruntled during a Sunday morning service and act out. He thought he'd never have to talk about security and safety at this level, though.
"My first thought was that this is the evidence of sin in the world. Through sin there's death and tragedy. It's an example of our real human nature and the tragedy and evil we're capable of. You'd never think a Sunday morning service would not be a safe place and yet time and time again we see, even there," he said.
"Speaker of the House Paul Ryan tweeted out that our prayers need to be with those people in Texas. And somebody responded to his tweet to say — 'they were literally praying. So how can you say prayers matter?' And that's really evidence of human nature. And the truth is, God is our only hope. You see the reality of human nature and the evil it can create and you realize that because of that our only hope is God, through what Jesus has done for us."
Ray is spending a lot of time in prayer for his city —and his country. His prayers are for peace.
"My prayer is Jeremiah 29:7, for peace and prosperity," he said. "That you'd experience peace in the church and outside of it. That you'd experience peace at Walmart and at Chick-fil-A, everywhere. "