Safety Program held at Church of the Ascension in Kettering

In November 2013, I attended the Good Samaritan Health Ministries Program, “House of Worship Hazard and Safety Workshop.” After receiving valuable information from the varied speakers, I knew I wanted to offer some type of similar program at Ascension Church. But daily details, the busy church calendar and life passed by and this got placed on the back burner. Several years later, at a Sunday liturgy, two unfamiliar Middle Eastern men walked in late to a mass and began recording video with their phones, each wearing an earpiece. This caused quite a stir in the area where these men were sitting. When they continued taking video of the ceiling and all around the inside of the church, and after parishioners alerted me with their concerns, I elected to contact the police. The police arrived and escorted the men out of mass for questioning. Long story short, the gentlemen had been invited by a parishioner to attend our service, and while they meant no harm, they had not notified anyone on staff that they might be arriving that day. This incident was a great eye-opener and caused the staff to look at our safety preparedness. The Safety Workshop was repeated in March 2017, and I invited key staff, as well as our ushers to attend with me. As I expected, they were impressed with the program, and we elected to offer something similar for our parishioners.

In August 2017, Ascension Church hosted a “Be Alert – Be Safe” program, open to all parishioners. Dayton Police officer and member of the Miami Valley Crime Prevention Association, Chris Pawelski, gave a two-hour safety awareness presentation. His primary message was, “your safety is your responsibility.” While the program was open to everyone, our liturgical ministers (ushers, greeters, lectors and Eucharistic ministers) and staff were encouraged to attend. We were fortunate to have approximately 50 people give up their summer Saturday morning to listen to Officer Pawelski. All in attendance felt they were more informed and made aware of safety concerns within a house of worship. “Everyone in the parish should attend this program,” was a comment made by several people.

In this day and age, we must all be aware of our surroundings, and this was perhaps the most important lesson given by the Miami Valley Crime Prevention program. As Officer Pawelski instructs, the OODA loop is key in preparedness: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. The first two steps are to observe and orient yourself. How often do we walk into a new building, not aware of the location of the nearest exit? Do you know where the fire extinguisher is located in your house of worship?

If you have not attended the House of Worship Hazard and Safety Workshop organized by the Health Ministries Program, I highly recommend you consider going and taking a friend or coworker the next time it is offered. If you have attended, have you brought a part of the workshop back to your faith community? Your local police department likely has a similar program if you are outside the Dayton area. We are certainly glad we made the effort to organize this presentation; I am sure you will be as well.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

Cathy Magness, Pastoral Associate
Church of the Ascension Catholic Church