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Assistant Minister's Column

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 I was 23 years old and living in Austin when the doors were locked. I walked around the building and pulled on every handle, but they were all securely latched shut. Eventually, I went back to the church office door and read the sign, “Church is locked. Please ring doorbell for help.” I rang doorbell and waited outside watching the sun go down. Eventually, someone from the young adult group came and let me into the church.

I ranted and raved through the first 10 minutes of our YA meeting. “I don’t care what you say, a church should  never be locked.”

It was only a couple of years later, when I was a professional religious educator, that I understood the practicality of locking the doors. Since I worked alone on weekdays in a large, dark, empty building, it was important for me to know who was (and was not) in the building. Knowing the practicality of working in a church that sees most of its public traffic on weekends and evening, I still agree with the principal behind my rant.

Growing up in this Catholic culture of Southern Louisiana, I fully absorbed the idea of a church as a public building open to anyone needing sanctuary. I’m OK with the church being locked when nothing is going on and there are just a few church members or staff in the building, but a church being open to everyone every Sunday is etched into my bones.

I’ve been in meetings with colleagues from all over the country who talk about closing their church on Sunday mornings for retreats and holidays. Some close a church for the entire summer.

 I can’t help but think fondly of our senior minister two years ago telling the congregation, as tropical storm Isaac approached, that no matter what, even if we don’t have a roof, and we have to worship holding umbrellas, the church will be open Sunday morning.