COVINGTON CO., AL (WSFA) - In light of the church massacre in early November in Sutherland, Texas, Covington County Sheriff Dennis Meeks has reached out to all 60 churches in the county with a single mission: offer training classes should the unthinkable happen to them.
Meeks knew the time had come to turn the page on hoping it doesn't happen, to realizing it could happen. Like millions of Americans, Meeks shuddered when he thought of the 26 innocent lives snuffed out in Sutherland Springs weeks ago.
"Yeah, it really hit home. You know, we've been in a different world for some time now," said Meeks.
Covington County is filled with rural, isolated churches and so, the sheriff formulated a game plan and sent a 6-page letter to 60 churches offering them free classes on self-defense, a three hour class over four weekends.
"And it's information they can look and read over," Meeks said.
Meeks outlined in the letter activities churches should focus on: observation, assessment and action. He also strongly suggested a security system, such as alarms, cameras and a security team.
"If a church decides, we want guys in our church armed, this is why they're taking this course," Meeks said.
As of right now, 15 churches have responded to the sheriff's call which soon means they will be making trips to the sheriff's department firing range. Macedonia United Methodist Church in the Rose Hill community is among those that answered the call. The overriding goal is not to train parishioners to become police officers but to teach them self-defense and be aware.
"We're going to train them for what they need," he said.
Through sheriff Meeks, WSFA 12 News invited pastors to be part of this story. The ministers either declined or couldn't be reached.