As news emerged of a deadly mass shooting at a Texas Baptist church outside of San Antonio, it spread quickly to churches across America, including to one right here in metro Atlanta.
On Sunday, authorities say Devin Kelley started shooting inside the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, killing a total of 26 people and injuring several more. The gunman fled the church in a vehicle after the shooting and was also killed, either by a self-inflicted wound or during a confrontation with police, said one official who was briefed on the investigation.
RELATED | 26 dead in church shooting
11Alive's Ryan Kruger spoke to one local pastor, who said his church has already taken actions to step up security ever since previous shootings, like the one in Charleston, SC in 2015 where nine people were killed at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
"One of the things that we discovered after Charleston, is that church is not innocent anymore," said Dr. Frank Cox. "I know our church, back then, started to make strides and build security teams at the church."
Cox is pastor of North Metro Baptist Church in Gwinnett County. He said we're simply living in a different world than what we were even just a few years ago. And sadly, churches have had to learn from previous tragedies.
"My hope would be that these small churches around that feel like, 'this is church,' they need to realize we're living in a different day, and they need to take precautions," Cox said.
While he said being welcoming to people from all walks of life is one of the most important aspects of gathering for worship, Cox said that unfortunately introduces an element of the unknown.
"When you open the doors to all people, all kinds of people show up," he said. "So, it's important that the security is there so everyone knows they're being taken care of. And it's a deterrent to somebody who may come in with a different motive in mind."
Meanwhile, Cox told 11Alive he's encouraging his congregation to pray for the victims and when the call comes out for help -- whether monetary or for supplies -- he hopes those calls will be answered.