Members of two Denton churches hit with threatening letters vow to not be stopped from attending their places of worship for services this evening.
Denton police officers continue to investigate the bomb threat letters received by Denton Bible Church and St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, while pastoral officials have beefed up security to keep members safe.
“I hate to hear it, as it does frighten quite a few people,” said Joy Wright, a member of St. Andrew since 2000.
She said the appearance and words of interim pastor Alan Baroody on a recent nightly newscast made members feel comfortable.
“I’m sure they will have plenty of security,” she said. “The service is always so good, we don’t want to miss it.”
Baroody said church officials drafted a letter of response to the congregation and community of St. Andrew on Tuesday.
The letter gave notice of extra security around the church grounds during the day and an off-duty officer who will be sweeping the grounds before services this afternoon.
“We’re taking all the precautions we can take,” Baroody said Wednesday.
He noted that he knows some of the 600 congregational members who do not feel comfortable attending or bringing their children, and he understands there are those that will.
“I hate to give in to the atmosphere of fear or even the prejudices,” Baroody said.
St. Andrew Presbyterian Church is home to Our Daily Bread, a community soup kitchen that serves a free, nutritious lunch Monday through Friday to the hungry and homeless in Denton County and surrounding areas.
A volunteer who did not wish to be identified said the number of people who attended Our Daily Bread on Wednesday was about the normal daily average.
Pastoral staff of the non-denominational Denton Bible Church did not make themselves available for comment Wednesday, choosing to have the receptionist hand out a typed media statement.
“Yes, we received a bomb threat. Yes, we are having Christmas Eve service. There will be additional security. We have no additional information,” the statement read.
Standing in the receptionist area of the Denton Bible Church on Wednesday, it looked like business as usual.
Laughter could be heard from offices out of sight with a person asserting that services will go on.
On the church’s Facebook page, numerous members commented with intent to attend the service and praise to the staff for not giving in to any threats or fears.
In a previous statement, Denton Bible Church pastor Tom Nelson discouraged members from bringing backpacks and large bags with them to the service.
Denton police Officer Shane Kizer said investigators with the U.S. Postal Service are looking into the letters and that officials from the FBI have contacted Denton police with an interest in the investigation.
No motive for the threats has been suggested at this point in the investigation, Kizer said.
Kizer also said officers have sat down with staff from both churches on steps to ensure security at their facilities during services.
“We tried to encourage them and give better suggestions,” he said. “It appears both churches are being diligent.”
While no other churches have received threats of which law enforcement officials are currently aware, Kizer said a number of churches have contacted the department requesting information and suggestions on how to safeguard their churches and people during services.
“We’re also sending messages to our contacts in town of our faith-based leaders, giving safety tips and crime prevention measures they can take,” Kizer said.
Christmas Eve services at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, 300 W. Oak Street, will be held at 5 and 7 p.m.
Services at Denton Bible Church, 2300 E. University Drive will be from 6 to 7 p.m. Music from carolers and the orchestra will be at 5:30 p.m.