STANFORD, Ky. (KT) – Preachers are immune to distractions like crying babies, cellphones ringing and people taking bathroom breaks.
But how about a howling bloodhound in pursuit of an escaped convict?
Justin Carter, the pastor of Stanford Baptist Church, never flinched Sunday during his outside service.
“I’m in the middle of preaching and kind of getting into it,” Carter said. “I see a bloodhound go across our yard. Of course, people are watching. Then his handler came after him and 10 cops were behind him.”
The chase was on … and so was Carter’s message. As the howling continued – from the dog, not the preacher – he stopped for a second.
“I said, ‘Listen, they’re doing their job and I’m trying to do my job.’’’
It was another surreal day in ministry during a year that has been full of them. The majority of the church agreed they would rather do the drive-in service than have all the restrictions inside, Carter said. He was fine with that and attendance has been about 70 percent of what used to be normal.
Sunday was anything but normal though.
It started around 7:30 in the morning when Carter and some others were setting up for the 9 a.m. morning service. Police officers began pulling patrol cars onto the parking lot and told the pastor that an escaped convict freed himself while being booked and was on the run.
The church backs up to a wooded area where some homeless people take refuge and drug deals are sometimes brokered.
Carter said the church is well equipped with cameras and they often are asked to assist local law enforcement. He looked over the video from the morning and sure enough found the convict sprinting into the woods.
“I told the officers and a K-9 unit from the city came but couldn’t get on the trail,” he said. “All that happened before church started. I guess they had called the bloodhound from the North Point training center in Burgin.”
The police presence at the church was unusual and had many of the congregants who had driven up to roll down the window and ask a neighbor what was happening. Carter figured they also were accessing Facebook where the Lincoln County Emergency Management does a good job of informing the public on incidents.
Carter said he didn’t make an announcement before beginning the service but the howling bloodhound kind of did that for him a little later.
The pastor said he’s usually able to preach through any distraction. “It really didn’t bother me,” he said. “I don’t get messed up by that stuff. It didn’t phase me.”
He said a few weeks ago, while taping his sermon in an empty sanctuary, except for his wife and kids and some tech people, he got thrown off his game when his son twice got up to use the restroom.
“It bothered me,” he said. “And we were the only ones in there.”
Kentucky Baptist Convention South Regional Consultant Alan Dodson asked Carter if he counted the bloodhound and the police officers among his Sunday attendance. “I told him they were sure there,” Carter said. “Anyone who listens to our audio (podcast) may wonder what’s going on?”
Law enforcement captured the escaped convict who was being held at the jail on multiple charges of assault, strangulation and endangering the welfare of a minor.