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When a gunman burst into the Greater Faith Christian Church in Lakeland last Sunday and shot pastor William Boss and associate pastor Carl Stewart, the two men who subdued him were described as armor bearers.

An armor bearer — a Biblical reference to the one who carries the spear and shield of a warrior — is traditionally the person in the church who assists the pastor in everything from adjusting the temperature in the sanctuary to picking up visitors at the airport to running interference for the minister.

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Sepulveda’s day job is working as an Orange County deputy sheriff. But on Sundays, for the past 10 years, he has been the spiritual bodyguard of Pastor Shaw. During the service, Sepulveda is seated behind Shaw, his attention directed at the congregation in the pews.

In many churches, the armor bearer is not armed and is not responsible for protecting the minister. He is more of an unpaid personal assistant.

“The term ‘armor bearer’ was basically a person who assisted the pastor,” said the Rev. Willie C. Barnes, pastor of Macedonia Missionary Baptist Churchin Eatonville. “What it has evolved into is men and women who are prepared to assist and deter any kind of attack.”

In most small churches, the responsibility for church security falls to the deacons, ushers and greeters. While larger churches can afford private security and off-duty police officers, small churches rely on the keen eyes and quick responses of a few men trained to intercede. Greeters are instructed to watch for people entering the church who behave oddly or look suspicious. Ushers are trained to deal with those who become disruptive. Often, it is someone who arrived at church intoxicated, high or angry. Without disrupting the service, ushers will escort the person outside the church.

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