Fayetteville mega-church talks security amid concerns

FAYETTEVILLE (WTVD) -- On Christmas Eve, Fayetteville's largest church will easily have 7,000 attendees in just one of its services.

They guarantee safety in a season when many question how safe they are in their place of worship. But that guarantee wasn't prompted by any particular event over the past couple of years.

"Actually we started years ago, said Senior Pastor Michael Fletcher. "We began to notice that churches were increasingly the target of violence."

Fletcher said his 10,000-member congregation relied on one another to draft a security plan that's become more and more sophisticated over the years.

"We have some interesting people in our church," he said. "We have a disproportionate number of Special Operations and Special Forces, not to mention local security and first responders--police, EMTs, fire....and people began to say, 'You know what, with very little effort we can increase security here.'"

Without going into details, Fletcher said every square inch of the multiple church locations undergo daily sweeps, there's a sophisticated surveillance system and digital identity verification for child services, as well as strategically placed plainclothes guards.

"It's never something where you'll walk in and say 'Oh My God, look at all the security,' because they blend in," said Fletcher. "They dress like we dress in strategic places just trying to make it comfortable."

After the Charleston Church massacre, Fayetteville police hosted a church security seminar for area faith leaders. While much of the advice session was closed to the media, they publicly encouraged church leaders to protect themselves through a number of surveillance and security measures. They also told them not to hesitate to call on law enforcement to sit in a service and ease congregants' fears.

Read More: Police meet with faith leaders for security seminar

The same type of effort was hosted by the Hoke County Sheriff's Office last summer. Read more here.

Heading into heavily-populated Christmas worship services, Fletcher encourages precautions, not fear.

"We can't let terrorists have the day," said Fletcher. "And what I mean by that is, they do a little something over here and then everyone's afraid. The goal of terrorists is to terrorize us. So we should go to the Christmas parade, and we should go to the basketball game and the football game. We should go shopping at the mall and enjoy life."

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