Just as the people in Mariners Church began to pull off their hats, bow their heads and close their eyes to pray, Jimmy Meeks snapped at them.
“Get those heads up!” said the pastor and retired Texas police officer.
Hadn’t he just warned them that closing their eyes made them targets? Sheep in the presence of wolves.
“What’s wrong with y’all?”
Their eyes duly peeled, he then led the crowd in a prayer.
“Wherever we are, Father, should the wolf cross our path, give us the wisdom to know what to do with that moment, and give us the power and the courage to act to stop the wolf and protect our sons and daughters.”
Churchgoers, preachers and law enforcement officers from across Southern California had gathered for a church security seminar in Huntington Beach hosted by the California Rifle & Pistol Assn., which delivered a warning: Faith alone will not protect you in a house of God.
In the sleek sanctuary of Mariners Church, the mostly male crowd sipped coffee, jotted notes and punctured the air with shouts of “Amen!” and “Hooah!” as a series of out-of-town speakers at the Sheepdog Seminar encouraged them to be the ones who step up and protect others if, God forbid, an attacker comes.
In the months since a gunman in November killed 26 people at the First Baptist Church in rural Sutherland Springs, Texas, many people of faith have begun questioning how to keep religious institutions safe, said Rick Travis, executive director of the California Rifle & Pistol Assn. His organization has been inundated with requests for church security training and probably will be hosting events for the next several years, he said.
“We don’t want people to be afraid,” said Travis, a churchgoer himself. “We want people to be knowledgeable.”
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