From the Rector's Desk: Parish Safety Committee
Dear parishioners of Saint Peter’s:
I pray you are staying healthy and your new year is off to a blessed start.
I write to share with you about an important safety and security ministry we’ve been developing over the past several months at the Basilica.
Saint Peter’s is a famously hospitable parish in a bustling urban area where everyone is welcome to encounter Christ through worship, fellowship, formation, and the sacraments. This means we are regularly joined by people we don’t know who are visiting us on pilgrimage, in Columbia on a business or family visit, or down on their luck and living nearby on the streets. All are welcomed with the same warmth you have come to know here.
We have no illusions, however, about the challenges society faces regarding mental illness, violence and disregard for human life, and the growing disrespect for, and even hostility towards, religion. Sometimes those challenges present themselves on our campus, whether in the form of disruptive behavior at Mass or vandalism, as we sadly experienced in our historic graveyard on an otherwise beautiful Sunday morning last summer.
Over the past several years, we’ve taken many steps to monitor and secure our parish campus, including installing an extensive camera system, securing building entrances and extending access controls. These are, however, predominantly passive systems that don’t provide real-time response to disruptive or potentially harmful situations. I am joined by our Parish Council in my concern that we cannot wait to react to tragedy, but must be prepared to prevent it, when possible.
To that end, and through the efforts of dedicated parishioner volunteers, we have developed a parish safety committee. This committee is comprised of St. Peter’s parishioners with high level training in conflict intervention, de-escalation, and security who can assist with conflict and disruptive behavior, so we may enjoy the peace we so long for when we enter the Basilica.
Many of you have noticed these members of our parish while at Mass, working in the background to provide for our safety. It has given me a great sense of peace to witness them in action as I can observe much, but do very little, from where I sit. I am very grateful for their efforts.
Perhaps your skill sets lend themselves to filling one of the many roles available in this ministry. Parishioner Dr. Katharine Presty will conduct a training seminar on active de-escalation strategies on Tuesday, January 25th from 6:30 to 8:30 PM in Neglia Hall. Participants will learn a structured process for defusing potentially threatening situations. Please contact Dr. Presty to participate: TeamSt.Michael@visitstpeters.org
As we often pray for the peace of Jerusalem as commanded by the Scriptures, let us pray too for the peace of the Basilica, that we be spared acts of harm and always be able to come to Saint Peter’s to experience the joy of Christ’s presence without fearing for our safety. God bless our parish; Saint Peter, pray for us!
In Christ’s peace,
Fr. Gary S. Linsky
The Very Rev’d Canon Gary S. Linsky, V.F.