WAYNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) With the debate over guns raging across the country — a church in Wayne County invited people to bring their weapons to a special blessing ceremony today. The Sanctuary Church near Newfoundland hosted a couples blessing service — and encouraged participants to bring AR-15 rifles. Eyewitness News Reporter Eric Deabill has there all day and has the latest.
Exactly two weeks after the deadly shooting in Florida — the Sanctuary Church near Newfoundland encouraged people to bring AR-15’s to a couple’s blessing ceremony Wednesday.
Participants say the firearms symbolize the “rod of iron” in the Bible’s Book of Revelation.
“I don’t look at it as an assault rifle. I look at it as a weapon to protect my family and to protect my neighbors” Louis Pearlman, a church member from Philadelphia.
Nearly 600 people came from as far away as Korea and Japan for the ceremony.
Inside, they exchanged vows and rings.
The AR-15’s were shown off during the service.
People were told to keep fingers off the trigger and point the rifles upward.
While participants didn’t think anything was unusual, they understand the controversy.
“Controversy is something you expect. When you’re a unification church member, a “Moon is” as were lovingly known, we’ve grown up with controversy” added Ram Montanaro, a Church member from Maine.
Outside the service, there was a visible state police presence.
A small number of people also demonstrated along Route 191 near the church.
“I think what they’re doing is absurd. I think their ideals are as absurd. I’ve spoken to some people who used to be members of this church and they told me they left because of how insane it’s gotten” said Megan O’Kelly of Greentown,
Church members say the couples blessing ceremony gave them a chance to explain their beliefs.
“The pastor of our church was always talking about our second amendment” added Washington Pesantez, a church member from New Jersey,
“These are accouterments, you know, symbols, I had a scarf around my neck earlier. To me, it is no different, the guns were not loaded” added Pearlman.
State police say there were no incidents during or after today’s service.
They say they were here mainly to protect people because of the protests out here near the street.