GREENVILLE, Pitt County - Grace Church in Greenville is one many churches across Eastern North Carolina and our country that has a difficult balancing act.
The church has to always be open and welcome while keeping the congregation secure. It starts with security cameras like the ones monitoring every entrance and hallway at the Greenville location. Pastor Mike Meshaw said church is supposed to be a safe place. Recent events like the shootings at churches in Tennessee, California and Texas have put that safety to the test.
"Well it's certainly not a place where you would expect someone to walk down the center aisle, say in a church, and start shooting people," Meshaw said.
The flag outside Grace Church flies half staff in remembrance of the lives lost Sunday in Texas. Meshaw said thoughts and prayers aren't enough and that action must be taken to prevent tragedies like what has happened from taking place anywhere around here.
"It's several hundreds of miles away from here, but when it happens in one church, and that safe environment is penetrated by someone that would take a life so carelessly and randomly, we want to be concerned about it," Meshaw said.
During services, all entrances to Grace Church except the main one are locked. Cameras monitor hallways, doors and outside and staff are constantly on patrol during the service. Many of the members of the church also have concealed carry permits.
"Some of that's due to concerns of break-ins in our vehicles and cars, but this is beyond that for sure," Meshaw said. "So I think not only does Grace Church have to take another look at church security, but all of our churches do."
Greenville Police Chief Mark Holtzman said the department offers free security training for churches and their staff. He also said tragedies like the one in Texas shouldn't scare people out of going to church or anywhere else.
"Whether it's a movie theater, whether it's a school, whether it's a church, or an office building, or even a concert venue, we all can play a part in our own safety," Holtzman said. "This is our community, this is our country, and these ar our churches. We need to go about our lives and continue to live our lives."