ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - A bullet into one of their preschool classrooms earlier in the week set off alarm bells for Allendale United Methodist Church. On Sunday, the congregation gathered for the first time since the incident.
"We hope it was random, but we're afraid it was targeted," said Vickie Dunn, a member of the church council.
Sunday's church service took on a serious tone as the church's head pastor, Rev. Andy Oliver, discussed his frustration with the incident.
"Things have to change in our country!" exclaimed Oliver, the church's head pastor. "We shouldn't have to be having these conversations. We should be able to come to church, and children should be able to come to school feeling safe."
But Oliver also reassured his congregation that additional security measures were being put in place at the church to keep members safe.
"We're adding security cameras around the campus and fortifying some of the windows that are exposed," he said.
On Thursday, St. Petersburg police were called to the church after a bullet came through a window of one of the church's preschool classrooms. While students were inside at the time, no one was injured.
Authorities are continuing to investigate the incident. At this time, it is still unknown whether the bullet was shot through the window intentionally, or if it was just a stray.
In addition to the new changes, the church also hired security to be on the grounds as an extra level of caution as the investigation continues.
"We're hopeful this was just a random type of thing and we're being overly cautious, but in this world today, you can't afford to not take these things seriously," said Dunn.
While it's still unknown the nature of the bullet, the church isn't a stranger to tension in the community.
"Our sign has been vandalized," Dunn said. "We have had people come and protest outside, complaining about us being accepting of LGBTQ people for example."
However, the church still refuses to shy away from controversial topics. Their latest message was posted after the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, proudly displaying their views on guns. It reads:
"Dear God, Give courage to our elected officials to stand up to the NRA. Amen."
Oliver explained the message to FOX 13.
"We can make this place as safe as possible, but you can leave this place and go shopping and be harmed somewhere else. That type of culture is not going to change until we see more gun reform in our country," he said.
The church is now actively making changes to keep their campus secure, but their message remains the same.
"We want to be vigilant, but at the same time, we're not going to stop being a voice for those who are marginalized and oppressed in the community," said Oliver.
An additional meeting was held Sunday night for the congregation to express any concerns they may have regarding safety and security at the church.