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Seminar set to help churches “Protect the Flock”

Photo: Brown Baptist Church Executive Director Derrick Anderson, organizer of the Protecting the Flock Seminar, and one of the seminar’s presenters. (Bob Bakken/

In November 2017, a man entered a small church in Texas on a Sunday morning and decided he wanted to offer bullets instead of offering money inside the sanctuary. As a result, Devin Kelley shot and killed 26 parishioners and wounded more than 20 others. The mass shooting that morning could have been even worse, except for the intervention from a man who stepped in to stop the carnage. The man was Steven Willeford.

“He was the one that actually engaged the shooter,” said Brown Missionary Baptist Church Executive Pastor Derrick Anderson. “What a powerful story he has. He was sitting at home, and across the street from his house, a church where 49 people are being shot at and he intervenes and saves some lives and then helps police catch the suspect. Had he not been there, the devastation would have been even worse.”

After Willeford shot Kelley, the shooter left the church in an effort to escape, but he later killed himself after a car chase.  

It is the story of an attacker taking aim at a small church that Anderson uses as a basis for all churches to learn how to keep their places of worship safe and secure, regardless of their size. 

It is for that reason that Anderson encourages all churches to attend the Protecting the Flock Church Safety and Security Seminar, set for Friday and Saturday, May 17-18, at the church’s South Campus, 7200 Swinnea Road in Southaven.  

Willeford will be among the seminar’s speakers, telling his story about coming to the aid of a church facing tragedy. 

Anderson said there is something to be learned about the need to form and maintain a church security team and also to have a plan in place in case a crisis tries to enter a place of worship.  

“The Department of Homeland Security sent out at the end of last year a report saying that all churches need to have a security plan and personnel in place, so I think, if nothing else, that sends the message that this is critical,” Anderson said.  

Topics covered by the seminar and the nine speakers attending, including Willeford and Anderson, will present information on how to organize a security team and the legal aspect of church security. Recruitment, leadership and strategy practices will also be presented. Those attending will be introduced on how to look for certain behavior cues or someone that could be doing a threat and just kind of having that mindset of survival in battle. 

“Everything is going to be covered,” said Anderson, himself a reserve deputy with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department the past 10 years, in addition to his ministry role at Brown.  

Anderson believes more churches are safer today because they are taking the needed steps. But he says there are others who “still don’t have a clue,” as Anderson put it.  

“What hurts my heart is to think about churches in a rural area that are 15-19 minutes away from law enforcement and medical personnel, and there is no one there just trying to know what to do,” he said. “There are still a lot of people that are in the dark and it’s not because they don’t want to but they just don’t have the tools to know how to get started.”

The Protecting the Flock seminar is not a conference specifically made for Christian churches and Anderson welcomes those of all faith beliefs to attend.  

That invitation can be especially important today with heightened tensions between Jewish and Hamas factions that might bleed into a violent episode at a synagogue or a mosque.  

“Whatever religious institution and entity, to me it’s all about safety and while we may not always have the same belief system, I do think that everybody deserves to be safe,”Anderson pointed out. “We want to definitely make sure that it’s clear that whatever religious institution, we want you to be safe and the information here can go across the board.”

He added a church can be a target for some extreme faction to make a statement during a service, whether it’s a small or large church, cathedral, synagogue or mosque. 

Seminar hours are from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on Friday and from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday.   

Specific information on the agenda and how to register may be found on the Brown Baptist website.