BOCA RATON, Fla. (BP)–One Florida church has a sense of “double exposure” in the wake of Sept. 11’s terrorist attacks and subsequent anthrax scares.
Gary Cason, pastor of First Baptist Church in Boca Raton, recounted, “After the attacks, we learned that some of the terrorists had lived a few miles from our church. And then the [tabloid newspaper] building exposed to anthrax is only a mile away. We even use the same post office that was closed for inspection due to the anthrax threat.”
Cason told the Florida Baptist Witness that in perilous times pastors can be of service to their churches and communities in a number of ways. Among his suggestions:
1. Be calm. Leadership cannot panic but must be levelheaded.
2. Walk with the Lord. “When you do this, then you will be prepared to meet any situation.”
3. Have correct information. Find the right governmental authority to pass on accurate information.
4. Encourage members to be calm.
At Boca Glades Baptist Church in Boca Raton, pastor Truman Herring said there was not a sense of panic but that he encouraged his congregation to remember that safety comes from the Lord.
In one of his recent messages, Herring spoke from Psalm 91, focusing on verses 5-6: “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth away.”
Herring noted that “America Under Attack” tracts from the American Tract Society had been ordered to help church members share with non-believers the gospel and the security found only in trusting God.
Diane Sanders, office manager for First Baptist Church in Delray Beach, said people in south Florida have had one shock after another until they seem numb, dating back to the confusion of the 2000 presidential election vote count in West Palm Beach.
But the fact that several of the terrorists had lived nearby was, in her mind, what disturbed the community most.
“It is mind-boggling that they lived among us,” Sanders said. “That probably unnerved and disturbed people the most.” She noted that living in Palm Beach County is like living in several foreign countries at once.
“We have so many different cultures, languages, religions, that, unfortunately, Christians have become immune to people who are different from us,” she said.
More than ever, Cason said, Christians need to witness to people of other cultures who live in America. “Churches need to drop their agendas, focus on the community and share the gospel,” the pastor said.