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Local places of worship continue safety training sessions following deadly church attacks

Local places of worship plan safety training sessions following deadly church attacks (ABC7)

For worshippers at Saint Thomas More Cathedral in Arlington, a Cross above gives them a sense of protection, but Elaine Arczynski knows her safety takes more than prayer.

“I noticed that when I tried to come in the side door today that it was locked,” said Arczynski.

It’s a change the Director of Risk Management for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington suggested.

“Have one entrance once mass begins. That means we have less to watch,” said Mary Stewart, who has worked for 13 months training ushers, greeters and servants on the altar.

Stewart, a former police officer, is trying to prevent an incident similar to the church shooting in Texas on Sunday, where 26 people were killed by a lone gunman.

Stewart says more than half of the incidents start in the parking lot, so she’s training greeters to keep an eye out here as service is going on.

The diocese has churches in Prince William County, where police spokesman Sgt. Jonathn Perok suggests similar proactive steps that Stewart is taking. The police department now trains places of worship on active violence. The next session is on November 21.

“Put the phones down and really legitimately pay attention to what’s going on around you because you’d be surprised at what you could possibly prevent if you’re just looking at other people,” said Sgt. Perok.

It’s a different world for what should be a safe place.

“We never anticipated this. We had churches that were open all night long. Now we’re starting to be more aware and responsive to our environment,” said Stewart.

Arcyzinski says she will be smart about her safety, but it’s only natural for her to lean on faith.

“Whatever happens is just the way it’s going to be,” she said.

The training in Prince William County is Tuesday, November 21 from 9 am to 12:30 pm. at the Western District Police Station: 8900 Freedom Center Blvd. Manassas, Va. You are asked to RSVP by November 14 to Kim Purcell: kpurcell@pwcgov.org.


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