Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ones that stick out like a sore thumb

I talk to strangers. In particular, I try to be extra outgoing to the first-time visitor, to the guy with the paper nametag who is sitting by himself 10 minutes before the service starts. Just a gentle greeting, "Have you visited here before?", or "How did you come to know about us." Some want to talk. Some don't.

Some stick out like a sore thumb. Every once in a while, I get a sense that a visitor is extraordinary fragile, or angry, or awkward.

In an article, Shootings give rise to church security concerns, Christian Century discusses several recent acts of violence at churches, including the one at UU Knoxville.
After that, [church security consultant] Anderson suggests assembling a team to look for "preincident indicators," such as a stranger who appears nervous, avoids eye contact and cuts casual conversation short. Attention to the unordinary, coupled with strategic placement of team members around the sanctuary, can help reduce the risk of an incident by making it harder to pull off.
I laughed when I read this; nervous strangers avodding eye contact are pretty much our weekly fare.

Still, after thinking about it, I sort of nodded. Yes, we get our regular stream of introverts who won't look anybody in the eye. But every once in a while – much less often than once a year – I meet a visitor who sets of alarm bells.

"Hmmm.... very troubled person. Very, very troubled. Might be trouble." Do you have visitors like that? What do you do?

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