Ministers address security in wake of church shooting

Dave Bakke

In the wake of Sunday’s fatal shooting at First Baptist Church in Maryville, the president of the Springfield Ministerial Alliance is asking members of that group and his own congregation whether the time has come to take greater safety precautions.

The Rev. W.G. Robinson-McNeese, alliance president and pastor of New Mission Church of God, said safety will be discussed at the church’s Wednesday night and Sunday services. It will also be on the agenda at an upcoming meeting of the ministerial alliance.

“I think it should be addressed,” Robinson-McNeese said. “Yes, these things happen. Yes, we have to have something in place to prevent it.”

A prosecutor said Monday the 27-year-old man charged with gunning down a suburban St. Louis pastor on the middle of his sermon had marked the day as “death day” in a planner.

Madison County State’s Attorney William Mudge also said the alleged gunman, Terry J. Sedlacek of Troy, brought enough rounds of ammunition to First Baptist Church in Maryville on Sunday to kill 30 people. Investigators say four rounds were fired before his gun jammed.

Sedlacek is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated battery in the attack, which killed the Rev. Fred Winters and left two congregants with stab wounds.

What local churches could do to improve safety has yet to be decided. Robinson-McNeese said it might be something as simple as church greeters being more vigilant.

“If you can at least intercept suspicious individuals and get a feel of what they are about and what they are looking for,” he said, “that might help.”

However, he said, a church also must be welcoming to all kinds of people. While no one should be turned away, he said it makes sense to be more cautious.

“I was leaving church on Sunday,” he said, “and a homeless person — I happen to know he is homeless — came up and started talking to me. He said, ‘What’s your name?’ I told him, and he said he just wanted to know and walked away.

“Then when I got home and heard about this (Maryville) incident, I said, ‘Wow.’ What if he’d been deranged, or had it in for me for some reason?”

Dave Bakke can be reached at (217) 788-1541