‘God’s people have to be protected’ | San Antonio religious leaders stress need for improved safety protocols after Houston megachurch shooting

Pastor Kevin Nelson of Calvary Baptist Church worries about smaller churches in San Antonio lacking the resources to bolster security such as hiring armed guards.

SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio religious leaders are emphasizing the importance of evaluating safety and security measures after a shooting took place at Lakewood Church in Houston on Sunday.

“As big as Lakewood is and as many resources as they have, I think you get to the point where you almost have to say, we’ve done all we can. Lord it’s up to you,” said Pastor Kevin Nelson of Calvary Baptist Church. 

Houston police say 36-year-old Genesse Ivonne Moreno and her 7-year-old son entered the Houston megachurch just before the 2 p.m. Spanish service.

According to authorities, Moreno started opening fire using an AR-style rifle in the church hallways, which prompted two off-duty law enforcement officers working security to return fire, killing the alleged assailant. 

Moreno’s son was shot in the head and taken to the hospital in critical condition. A 57-year-old man also suffered a gunshot wound to the hip and has since been discharged from the hospital. 

Nelson, who worked in law enforcement for several years, is always thinking about ways to ensure the safety of worshippers. He said eligible and trusted parishioners are discreetly armed while open carry is prohibited, although Nelson noted it’s difficult to be able to maintain gun-equipped personnel available throughout the week, especially on days where church attendance isn’t as prominent.  

Surveillance cameras greet visitors outside and inside Calvary Baptist Church where Nelson has spread the word of God for 22 years. 

Nelson stressed the importance of having ongoing conversations with fellow church leaders and city-county law enforcement is vital for preparation efforts of potential threats. 

“In our conversations here at Calvary, God’s people have to be protected too. God’s people have to be protected in God’s house,” Nelson said. 

Nelson’s big concerns also lie with the smaller churches in the San Antonio area that may lack resources ranging from the capability of being able to hire armed guards to having someone within the parish who can serve the gun-equipped watchful eye. 

Pastor Jondavid De Leon, who preaches alongside the City of God Worship Center, has spent years spending time with communities in Bexar County that’ve been surrounded by cultures of violence. He said partnering with San Antonio police and the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office continues to be paramount. 

“I’m glad to be a part of a wonderful active faith community, friends and pastors in the city on the east side and across the city, coming together to prevent crime and help stand against certain things that are affecting our children and our families,” De Leon said. 

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