This Sunday, Some Churchgoers May Choose to Pack Guns With Their Bibles

Congregations face question of security at services in wake of Texas shooting; ‘a responsibility to protect the flock’

Workers on Thursday replaced the front door of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, where a gunman shot and killed 26 people and wounded 20 others on Nov. 5.
Workers on Thursday replaced the front door of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, where a gunman shot and killed 26 people and wounded 20 others on Nov. 5. PHOTO: SCOTT OLSON/GETTY IMAGES

As he does every Sunday, the Rt. Rev. Council Nedd II, an Anglican rector, will put on his collar and robes to offer Mass at his central Pennsylvania church. Now, he is considering wearing something else with his religious vestments: his handgun.

As a Pennsylvania state constable, Dr. Nedd can bring his gun just about everywhere—to the grocery store, to the park and to synagogues and other houses of worship, where he often acts as security. His church was the one place where he went unarmed.

“Weapons do not belong in church,” he said. But, as a bishop, he has “a responsibility to protect the flock,” he added.

One week after a shooting at a Texas churchleft 26 dead and 20 more wounded, congregations gathering for worship around the country Sunday are once again facing the question of security. Long the last frontier where many gun owners went unarmed, the faithful are now considering whether they should bring firearms to their houses of worship as well.

Many who live near Sutherland Springs, Texas, where last week’s shooting took place, said they didn’t bring their weapons into their houses of worship.

Tomie Barker, who attends Christ Lutheran Church of Elm Creek in Seguin, Texas, about 15 miles north of Sutherland Springs, said her husband didn’t have the firearm he is licensed to carry on him last Sunday when their church was locked down following the shooting at the nearby First Baptist Church. But, she said, he plans to have it with him this Sunday.

“Why would we take a gun to church? Church and school—we feel like we ought to be safe,” she said on Saturday, nearly a week after the shooting. “But he’s not leaving home without it now.”

Ms. Barker, 60, thinks other worshipers will feel the same, and said she told her pastor that the church should probably make note of who is armed in case another emergency arises.

“I’ve told everybody, I told my pastor: I’m not going to be a sitting duck or a fish in the barrel,” she said. “We know all about the whack-a-doodles and the copycats.”

Houses of worship are among the softest of soft targets, with inherent missions and traditions emphasizing peace and welcoming. Churches, synagogues, mosques and Sikh temples have struggled to balance their desire to provide an open sanctuary for the community with security. In recent years, many houses of worship have installed cameras and hired armed guards.

The Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, in response to the Sutherland Springs shooting, offered a free seminar on church security. Representatives from more than 300 churches signed up for the course within three days.
The Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, in response to the Sutherland Springs shooting, offered a free seminar on church security. Representatives from more than 300 churches signed up for the course within three days. PHOTO: STEWART F. HOUSE/GETTY IMAGES

After the shooting last Sunday, Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, said churches needed armed protection.

Another shooting is “going to happen again, so we need people in churches, either professional security or at least arming some of the parishioners,” he said in an interview on Fox News.

Prestonwood Baptist Church, a megachurch in Plano, Texas, announced last week that it would be holding a free seminar on church security. Representatives from more than 300 churches, large and small, signed up within three days.

With roughly 12,000 attendees at its services every Sunday, Prestonwood has armed security guards. Jack Graham, the church’s pastor, said the church had resisted putting in metal detectors so that the church would continue to feel welcoming, and didn’t allow open carry of firearms for the same reason. He suspects some congregants with concealed-carry permits do bring their firearms.

“Frankly, it brings some comfort,” Dr. Graham said of the armed church members. “If there had been someone with a weapon in that little church, maybe that could have been prevented.”

But not every house of worship can afford private security. Smaller churches are now considering arming the congregation or clergy.

Tambria Read, a schoolteacher and chairwoman of the Sutherland Springs Historical Museum, owns a gun and supports people being able to carry them, but had always preferred to keep firearms out of religious spaces.

“I’m not too crazy about guns in church—somebody could take the gun and do something,” said Ms. Read, 59, who sometimes worshiped at the First Baptist Church but wasn’t there last week. “Maybe somebody in a church needs a gun, someone strategic, but not everybody in a pew.”

St. Alban’s Anglican Church in Pine Grove Mills, Pa., where Dr. Nedd is rector, has roughly 50 members, and no budget for private security.

Until several years ago, the church was open 24 hours a day, with no locks on the doors. After a deadly shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., last year, the St. Alban’s congregation discussed security measures. When a newcomer showed up, everyone eyed him warily. Dr. Nedd considered bringing his gun, but decided against it.

Wendy Coulson, a 55-year-old member of St. Alban’s congregation, said she had never brought a gun to church before last year.

Tambria Read, a schoolteacher and gun owner in Sutherland Springs, said she had always preferred to keep firearms out of religious spaces, but ‘maybe somebody in a church needs a gun, someone strategic.’
Tambria Read, a schoolteacher and gun owner in Sutherland Springs, said she had always preferred to keep firearms out of religious spaces, but ‘maybe somebody in a church needs a gun, someone strategic.’ PHOTO:TAWNELL D. HOBBS/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Then, one Sunday after the Charleston shooting, she was spiritually guided to bring her gun, she said. Ms. Coulson has a concealed carry permit, and didn’t tell anyone it was with her, she said. Though she hasn’t brought her gun since, having it that day made her feel better, she said.

“The reality of the times is that, if I’m in church, I can’t be completely abandoned to my worship, because I have half an ear listening for a strange sound—that’s the unfortunate part of what we’re dealing with today,” said Ms. Coulson, an engineering consultant. “If somebody were to target our church, I definitely would feel more comfortable that somebody else had an opportunity to slow them day,” she added.

Inez Howe, another parishioner, is from a house with “so many guns.” But her family, too, hasn’t brought them to church. She uses the guns largely for rattlesnakes, she said, adding that her husband, a devoted shooter and collector, doesn’t want to be in a position of using a gun to kill a person.

Still, Ms. Howe would be more comfortable now if someone—“maybe the bishop”—would be armed in church.

“I would never have even thought of a gun in church,” Ms. Howe, 74, said. “But if someone would walk in, I’d hope that we would be prepared.”

Dr. Nedd, the church’s rector, remained torn about whether to arm himself.

“I don’t feel right carrying it on my person when I’m saying mass,” he said. “I’ll probably spend a bunch of time praying about it, and then make a decision when I walk out the door on Sunday morning.”

Write to Ian Lovett at and Erin Ailworth at

What I Think of This Headline

“It truly a shame that in the wake of the most recent terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, that the left is calling it an issue of gun control, rather than calling it what it is. What happened in San Bernardino is a terrorist attack perpetrated by radical Islamist.”

“I am also appalled by the left saying that the various calls for prayer by people of faith isn’t enough. All of those who said that prayer isn’t enough, I have one question for you, how much time have you spent in prayer asking for God to soften the hearts of the Islamic terrorist? How much time have you spent on your knees asking God to bring this to an end? You can’t complain that prayer isn’t working if you are not actually praying yourself”

“The Bible is clear that in Deuteronomy chapter 32, one person praying can put a thousand dark angels to flight; two people praying fervent prayers can put ten thousand to flight, so imagine the power of all the people of God praying to God for peace and for the welfare of this nation.”

“If you haven’t tried prayer, don’t knock it.”


What is a Pennsylvania State Constable

Since my election as constable countless people have asked me, what exactly is a constable.  Following is something that is widely distributed by the constables.  I am not sure of the original source of this particular statement, but hopefully this will be helpful in answering the questions of my friends.

About the Office of Constable

History of the Constable

Constable’s are the oldest law enforcement position in the world. History records Constable’s in France in the beginning of the 5th century, when they were known as the Counts of the King’s Stables. By the turn of the 6th century they were the Chief Household Officers and commanded the Armies in the King’s absence. In the year 871 AD King Alfred of England, declared the Constable was the highest judge in the military and in matters of chivalry and honor. He was also named by the King to be the supreme arbitrator in tilts, tournaments, and martial displays.

The first Constables in the territory called Penn’s Woods began serving in the year 1664. In the year 1681 Pennsylvania officially became a Commonwealth and in 1787 became a Commonwealth State of the U.S.A. Constables were amongst the first public officials of the Commonwealth

The first recorded law enforcement officer of the State to be killed in the line of duty was a Constable in Venango County in the year 1825.


Constables in Pennsylvania are elected and serve a six-year term, they are Peace Officers by virtue of the office they hold, upon completing state certification and training, they may also serve as the Law Enforcement Arm of the Court. Constables primarily serve the District Courts but may also assist in serving the Common Pleas Court, when requested by the Sheriff.

As Public Officials Constables are required to file an annual Statement of Financial Interests with the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission .

Each Constable may with approval of the President Judge, appoint Deputies to work under his authority. Each Deputy is given the same authority as the Constable himself, but serves at the pleasure of the elected Constable.

Constable’s are considered to be the “Peoples Peace Officer” because of their Constitutional origin, and as elected officials they are independent of other governing bodies, this gives the Constable the freedom and authority to perform his duties according to statute, in the interest of justice.

The duty of the Constable is to uphold the law fairly and firmly: to pursue and bring to justice those who break the law; to keep the peace; to protect, help and reassure the community: and to be seen to do all this with integrity, common sense and sound judgment.

We must be compassionate, courteous and patient, acting without fear or favor or prejudice to the rights of others. We need to be professional, calm and restrained in the face of violence and apply only that force which is necessary to accomplish our lawful duty.

We must strive to reduce the fears of the public and, so far as we can, to reflect their priorities in the action we take.

What is a Constable ?

Under Pennsylvania Law, Constables are Public Officers, elected or appointed to their position in accordance with the laws of elections.

A Constable is a sworn Law Enforcement / Peace Officer that can arrest for felony crimes and breaches of the peace committed in his presence, or by warrant anywhere in the commonwealth.

A Constable is also an officer empowered to carry out the business of the statewide district court system, by serving warrants of arrest, mental health warrants, transporting prisoners, service of summons, complaints and subpoenas, and enforcing protection from abuse orders as well as orders of eviction and judgment levies.

Constables are also charged with maintaining order at the election polls and ensuring that no qualified elector is obstructed from voting, Constables are the only Law Enforcement Officials permitted at the polls on election day.

While Constables primarily serve the Courts, they belong to the executive branch of government.

Constables are elected at the municipal level, however State law governs Constables and they have statewide authority, thus the title became “State Constable”.

Constables are empowered to enforce both criminal and civil laws, Police Officers are empowered to enforce criminal and traffic laws, Sheriff’s are the chief law enforcement officer of the County and are empowered to enforce criminal, civil and traffic laws.

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