Local church leaders gathered with Osage Beach law enforcement Feb. 26 to discuss ways to better secure their congregations.

Local church leaders gathered with Osage Beach law enforcement Feb. 26 to discuss ways to better secure their congregations. Mark Van Meter, with New Home Baptist in Camdenton, attended the meeting on the church’s behalf and says that the meeting was presented to give attendees a better understanding of statistics surrounding church violence patterns. He says officers presents went over ideas such as gun violence stats, rights of the church, and exit strategies. Though he found this meeting appropriate, he says he came away from it feeling disheartened. 

“For me, it’s disheartening to see these things on our country’s soil, so close to home,” Meter said. 

Meter, a two-tour army veteran in Iraq, has been with New Home Baptist for four years. He says that it has been important for him to think about these sorts of safety issues and plans when it comes to his work with New Home. For Meter, much of his process with safety lies with being aware of situations around him. He wants congregation members to feel comfortable bringing any problems forward to him in order to be proactive in any situation. 

In December, lake area representative Rocky Miller pre-filed a bill that would take away the necessity to warn a minister before bringing a concealed carry weapon into a church. Though this bill has not moved forward, the idea of this was something Meter believes in. Concealed carry is already allowed in New Home, though Meter says that anyone with a concealed carry license should be able to take their weapon anywhere. He sees this as being a necessary step to keep the congregation in safe hands 

“We are trying to do whatever possible to the things that we can take control of,” Meter said.

Ladonna Beckmeyer, children’s minister for The Church at Osage Hills, also attending the law enforcement gathering and found the information to be “very enlightening.” She has also had discussions with church leaders about steps to be taken within the realm of safety. She says that what she found most interesting from the discussions was when church violence occurs most often. 

“I always assumed our greatest risk was on Sunday during normal congregation meetings,” Beckmeyer said. “In fact, they say it’s during weekday events, or times that are out of the ordinary. 

She says that is troubles her that these issues are something that churches wouldn’t have worries about only 10 years ago. She explained that there is an unnerving feeling to think that someone would want to come into a place of worship and injure attending members, let alone the over 200 children that attend weekly. 

Beckmeyer is also for the changes presented by Rep. Miller. Having a concealed carry license herself, she says that the classes she had to take for the license were very informational for her knowledge of firearms. Growing up around guns, she feels that they are something that should be used for a safe purpose. She believes that many members of the congregation are already carrying their weapons to service anyway, and as long as their concealed carry remains concealed, they are serving their purpose.

“The Church of Osage Hills has a core value system of safety,” Beckmeyer said. “We do what we can and understand that times are changing.”