Headlines in response to Home Office guidance issued after the death of Fr Hamel. Yesterday, I showed the Met Police adviser around church – listening to his recommendations, discussing likely threats.
We might need to think a little bit more about our “bouncers” (aka sidespeople and churchwardens) and how they keep an eye out for suspicious behaviour, as recommended.
And then: invite those people in. That was the comedy part of the conversation yesterday, as the Met’s idea of keeping out the undesirables met the church’s idea of loving the undesirables. Aren’t we concerned with the troubled, the lonely, the ill? Those who act differently, because their lives are different? If we start filtering people at the door because they’re Not Like Us, we are in real trouble.
One recommendation was for a ‘sanctuary room’. A place to where those targeted – those up front, in clericals (and likely, the Servers, too, as they’re robed) could flee. Whilst, presumably, the rest of the congregations flees outside.
The conversation had shifted from a general chat about security, to recognising that in the Home Office’s eyes, my uniform is a target for hate. I mean, I knew not everyone loved the church…most are ambivalent at best…But the realisation slowly dawned that we were not talking about a general incident, like a fire, where we’d be concerned about getting everyone out. Instead, we were looking at a specific scenario. Someone intent on causing harm to clergy.
I’ve had general safety worries before, about things like parking and security lighting at home. I’ve spent years running alone, constantly wary of those around me, planning routes that are well-lit and dull, instead of interesting footpaths. (Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to be suspicious of everyone?)
Somehow, this was different. This was a shift in thinking I wasn’t really prepared for.
The idea that the uniform I wear, worn in part to remind people that God has a presence everywhere, the collar that I so looked forward to being able to wear: that makes me a different kind of target.
And you know what?
There’s no way I’m taking it off.