A popular set of emails is circling around under the subject line, “Remember
When” These cute messages show images of how things used to be – rotary
phones, a family gathered around a radio, record players, drug stores that had
soda jerks, movies for 35 cents, and so on. I have heard stories of folks who
in their childhoods wouldn’t lock their doors at night. Memories like these are
I don’t need to remind you how quickly things change and the type of world the
21st Century is bringing. The signs are everywhere, including, I am
sorry to say, at Saint John’s. Sixty years ago, our school needed fences to keep
soccer balls from rolling into the street or down into the creek. We had an
intercom system to say the Pledge of Allegiance and pray together. Today we are
in the final stage of encircling our school behind another fence – this one
designed not only to keep soccer balls inside, but to keep bad people out. And
today our intercom system is still used for daily prayer and leading the Pledge,
but it’s also designed to play an integral role in a lock-down procedure we hope
we never will need but will practice monthly.
This week I visited with some folks who had a family member, a teacher, who died at Sandy Hook Elementary. It was a sobering reminder of what schools in this century get to deal with.
Saint John’s is safe. It is a safe place to worship and to learn and it’s a safe
place for our community to gather. However, there is one hole in our school
security – the Lych Gate. Someone intent on doing harm to our students and
teachers can enter the gate and gain almost unrestricted access.
After Sandy Hook, we began locking the doors into Nale Hall and the church between the hours of 8:30 and 3 pm. But that is not enough. Starting soon, construction will start on a security gate to close our main entrance. This gate will eventually have a camera and a touchpad. Visitors during school hours will need to ring the bell and be “buzzed” in. Folks who volunteer their time, like Altar
Guild, church leadership, and office volunteers will be issued a code to obtain
entrance. On Sundays, and at all public church events, the gate will be wide
open. The only real disruption will be if you need to visit me during school
hours (8:30 to 3). It’s a sign of the times.
Jesus said, “When a man enters the sheep pen, he should use the gate. If he climbs in some other way, he is a robber. He is trying to steal the sheep. But the man who takes care of the sheep enters through the gate. He is the shepherd. The man who guards the gate opens the gate for the shepherd. And the sheep listen to the voice of the shepherd.” The people were confused by this saying, so
Jesus said, “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved. They will
be able to come in and go out. They will find everything they need. A thief
comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But I came to give life—life that is full
and good.” (John 10:1-3, 9-10)
Although I don’t think Jesus was talking specifically about schools, he was talking
about life, people intent on doing harm, and safety in God. It’s odd to think
that by building a gate we are actually letting Jesus in, but that could be
exactly what we are doing. In our Gospel lesson for this Sunday, Jesus said he
has come to divide. The security gate does exactly that – it divides those who are here for life and goodness from those who are not.
One problem with security gates is giving someone a false sense of security. If
someone wants to do harm at Saint John’s they can. This gate will simply slow
them down. Please bear in mind that our safety and security come from God. We
pray every day at Saint John’s. I ask that as we begin this new and exciting
school year, that you also will pray for Saint John's every day. And, while you
are at it, pray for all schools that they may be safe and secure. Through
prayer, we will open the gate for Jesus to enter so that we may hear his voice and follow the One who calls us all by name.
- Fr. Marshall