The issue this week at a Chattanooga church isn't just sanctification, but safety _ gun safety. Pastor Fred Smith at the East Chattanooga Church of God says about 40 people have been taking a safety course on firearms. "We're not a pistol-packing church, by any means," he said, "but many outdoorsmen have an interest, and we want to get them trained properly."
Smith told the Chattanooga Times Free Press there's a dual advantage. Besides improving safety for people in the congregation, Smith notes about one-fourth of the class is made up of people who aren't church members. Taking the course could encourage them to worship there.
"It's new people coming onto the property," he said. "We'll (also) give a devotion and introduce them to the church."
Instructor Kristi Carter Manning has taught gun safety classes for seven years and has done them for other churches. Requests for the classes have increased dramatically this year, she said.
"Since the holidays last year, classes have quadrupled," said Manning.
She said the slowing economy has raised some people's fears.
"Where people felt safe before, they're not feeling safe anymore," she said.
The course taught this week included education on the parts of a gun, how to handle one safely, shooting stance and gun owner responsibility.
The Church of God does not have a stance on guns or a policy on guns in church, said Kevin D. Brooks, a spokesman at the denomination's international headquarters in Cleveland, Tenn.
Smith, who has hunted for about 25 years, said he expected just a handful of takers when he suggested the gun safety class.
"It's been overwhelming, the response we've gotten," he said. "Many who might not be as comfortable to go to a shooting range or a gun store would come here. There are a lot of ladies who signed up for the class."