“I'm here leading worship and I can hear disruptive noises,” recalled Rev. Calvin Birch of the Lighthouse International Church, who stepped down from the pulpit to investigate.
“He was here seated and then there was a lot of noise and movement, and then he got up,” Birch said. “By the time he moves here, he had unleashed the pit bull, a big black pit bull, and I looked and he put the leash over in that corner.”
Birch said that people in the church grew fearful because the dog was roaming the church, and the man was disgruntled. No one knew him, nor his intentions.
“I saw the group of people sitting over here jump up and scramble away because the dog had made it all the way over here,” he said. “It was very disturbing.”
Rev. Birch said he and other church leaders asked the man to contain the dog and leave, but he refused.
“He said no; he said the dog was friendly and that the dog would not bother anyone,” Birch said.
Some church members stepped outside and called Henrico Police.
Police told CBS 6 the man has not been charged because the animal was a service dog.
Church members said the man never indicated that.
“I will try not to find his motives, but his behavior was very unacceptable,” Birch said.
Birch said he's glad that things ended peacefully on Sunday. He said the incident prompted them to take a look at their security measures. He hopes that other churches, no matter how large or small, will do the same.
“Church is not as it used to be before,” Birch said. “We are living in a time where wickedness is on the rise, so we'll just have to keep praying and being vigilant.”