They came from more than 30 churches.
They came from Lovell and Thermopolis, Cody and Powell.
They came to learn about their options to help protect their congregations.
At least 130 people gathered Tuesday night at the Cody Auditorium to hear from various experts on the state of hate crimes around the world and what church leaders and security teams can do to prevent an attack on congregations in the area.
“We’ve got an issue you’re all aware of,” said Cody police chaplain and Episcopal clergyman Warren Murphy. “It’s a solemn topic. We now have to be proactive to know how to protect our places of worship. The world is not what it used to be.”
He listed a series of recent mass shootings from around the world involving many faiths, from the deadly mass shooting at the AME church in Charleston to the recent massacre at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Murphy has led churches all across the state for more than 40 years, including Christ Church in Cody, and more recently has worked with the Wyoming Interfaith Network. He coordinated with Cody Police Chief Chuck Baker to put the event together.
Baker said the event wasn’t meant to be a prescription on how to prevent all attacks, but a way to start the conversation for each church leadership team on what methods of security are right for the church.
“It’s intended to begin the conversation,” he said.
Leaders heard from Wapiti resident and security expert Bill Tallen of Distributive Security on the role of armed security.
Assistant United States Attorney’s Jason Conder and Tim Gist, based in Lander, spoke about their “cleanup” role in an event that would rise to the level of a federal hate crime. They also provided piles of statistics on hate crimes.
Protective Security advisor Kenny Longfritz with the Department of Homeland Security spoke about cyber security.
Despite all of the issues facing churches, Murphy said to avoid being consumed by fear. And he had a simple method to help in the security of the church.
“Know your congregation,” he said. “If you see somebody struggling, don’t be fearful ... the most important thing is to listen to them.”