Weekly thoughts from the Rector of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, where these words remind us that Jesus’ peace goes with us into the world.
This morning you may have noticed new signage — either permanent or portable, depending on which entrance you used to come into the church or onto our campus. The signage spells out what has been a long-standing policy of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, which prohibits open carry and concealed carry weapons in its churches and schools. While public opinion is deeply divided about the presence of such weapons in the world around us, churches have historically been holy spaces where weapons are put aside in response to the command of Jesus, who told his impetuous disciple Peter to put his sword away in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas has made it very clear that we stand in this tradition.
Due to changes in the laws that govern open carry and concealed carry weapons in the State of Texas, signage on the scale that you can see today is required in order to enforce the weapons policy of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas in the manner that has been affirmed by the Vestry of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church. Some will rightly note that we hire an off-duty police officer, who carries his weapon, to stand in front of the church on Sunday mornings. There is a provision for that in the diocesan weapons policy, noting that off-duty law enforcement professionals have the proper training to respond to threats, including armed intruders, and that legal safeguards apply to them when they are serving or responding in that role.
Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
— The Rev. Neil Alan Willard, Rector