Sunday, August 29, 2010


I have been thinking a lot lately about locks, particularly on the doors of the church. I have been having an ongoing debate with myself as to whether or not the church building should be locked. If so, when? Why or why not? Who should have keys? Are there ever exceptions to the rules?

The church where I grew up was always pretty secure. But it wasn't a big deal for people to get a key or be let in when they needed to be. It made sense for the church to be locked. We locked our house, so why not our church? I don't remember personally, but remember hearing about the time that the brand new handbells were stolen from the church. And entire set valued at several thousand dollars. We didn't have handbells for almost ten years after that. Locking doors was a part of life that made sense.

Then I went to divinity school and nothing has made sense ever again. We had a conversation in one of my theology classes about having locks on churches and the principle of sanctuary. It was an important reminder that sanctuary isn't only a place, but a state of being. That we, as the church, have a certain obligation to provide that without judgement.

I think about being in college and the fact that the chapel was always open. I believe there was a lock on the door, but I don't know that it was ever used. Even during holidays when the whole campus shut down, the chapel stayed open. I know this because I often retreated into its darkness in the wee hours of the morning to think, pray, read, write, cry, laugh, and play the piano. It was a time I absolutely cherished and an opportunity I very much miss.

I think about the example of a church that was broken into, and there wasn't anything especially valuable taken. Simply part of a couch, a microwave, and some food. Later, the pastor's wife was interviewed about it and she said she wasn't angry at the people who broke in, but that if they needed these things to provide for their family then she was glad that the church was able to provide them. And when given the chance to send a message to the thieves she said "Come on back and we'll give you the rest of the couch and some more food!" WOW! What an example! I have no idea if I could do that. I'd love to think I could, but I'm really not sure. But I'm grateful I have such an example to remind me of what exactly the "right thing" can be.

Then I think about the church where I served in Nashville and the church where I am serving now. I think about locks and alarms and regulations on keys. I think about safety and security and locking myself inside when I am working. I think about fear. I think about liability. I think about responsibility.

And somehow it all leads me back to thinking about God. Thinking about the reason I do what I do. The people I am called to serve.

I don't have this issue resolved. I may never have it resolved. But it's something I will continue to think about and I hope you will think about it, too! And please share your thoughts with me!

1 comment:

  1. When I was a teenager, I used to bike to church to pray. I remember making a file mile pilgrimage to my church, only to discover they started locking the doors. I was there, on my bike, locked out, wishing to pray in this place I felt was sacred. Though I told myself that God is everywhere, I couldn't help but feel barred from His presence through a locked door. The adult version of me also understands the need... but your post resonated with me. I've wondered about the same. And I don't know what the answer is - sanctuaries need to be protected too.