JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Days after a deadly attack on a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, armed guards watched over Monday night's service at First Timothy Baptist Church in Jacksonville.
The security, which church visitors are accustomed to seeing during a gathering, is a clear indication that the issue of safety is important to church members and leaders.
"I've always felt the responsibility to keep people safe, and you don't want people worrying about who may come in or who may not come in," said the Rev. Frederick Newbill of the First Timothy Baptist Church.
The Rev. John Newman of The Sanctuary at Mount Calvary on Kings Road also believes in hiring professional protection for his place of worship.
There's a scriptural discussion of whether to bring guns to places worship. Some says it's against their faith, while others believe it's justified to protect.
"I think we've come to a point now where people have no boundaries," Newbill said. "When I was coming (growing) up, you dare not even walk past a church and curse, and now people are coming in shooting and killing."
News4Jax reached out to law enforcement departments to see how many churches around Jacksonville have armed protection. St. Johns County has about 20 "religious facilities" using deputies. Clay County has two churches that utilize deputies including Hibernia Baptist Church and First Baptist Middleburg
Duval and Nassau counties did not immediately respond.
Jacksonville community honors 11 killed in Pittsburgh
Hundreds of people filled the Temple Synagogue Monday to mourn the loss of the 11 people killed during Saturday’s mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue. A candle was lit for each person who died.
Joe Cinder, 13, attended the vigil wearing a Steelers Jersey to support the synagogue he used to visit with his family.
“I had all these memories, and I feel that was kind of my home because I would go there three days a week for hours," Joe said. "It was just really harsh on me.”
Joe said he knew two of the victims, David and Cecil Rosenthal. His fondest memory of the two brothers is when they came to his sister’s rescue during her bat mitzvah.
“My sister was in the middle off a prayer ... and she passed out," Joe said. "The two brothers were really helpful and they just really cared.”
Sheriff Mike Williams and Mayor Lenny Curry also paid their respects during the vigil.
“We cannot let hate and darkness overcome us," Curry said. “We have to stand together arm in arm and do everything we can to make sure we tone down the rhetoric -- that we seek to be compassionate and caring towards everyone.”