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Church counters protests by honoring police
• Two Ceres churches wrap up worship in Whitmore Park
Sakasegawa and Griebel
Officer Kevin Sakasegawa and Ceres Police Sgt. Keith Griebel were presented Bibles by Pastor Chris Henry at the outdoor service at the Whitmore Park gazebo.

To get around COVID-19 restrictions implemented for most of this year that forbid churches from holding indoor worship, two Ceres churches have been meeting in Whitmore Park. On Sunday, Oct. 25 they also showed their support for Ceres Police in light of widespread protests against police.

The Richland Faith Assembly of God and Valley Christian Center are individually pastored by a father and son who have held joint services for three months in the park. The churches went back to indoor services as weather is turning colder and since the county has relaxed some restrictions designed to minimize new coronavirus cases.

Attending the special service were Ceres Police Sgt. Keith Griebel and Officer Kevin Sakasegawa. They were presented with law enforcement specific Bibles engraved with their names and police badge numbers on the cover. The churches also handed out Thin Blue Line flags which honor police officers. Pastor Henry also led a prayer of protection and blessing for Griebel and Sakasegawa and their brothers in blue who they represented.

“It was just a really cool moment,” said Chris Henry, pastor Valley Christian Church. “They seemed grateful about us supporting them.”

Also participating was Richie Hartsfield, associate pastor of Richland Faith.

He said the churches wanted to show support to local law enforcement after the protest staged in the same park in June by young people inspired by Black Lives Matter.

“We kind of felt after what had happened in the same park back in June we wanted to honor them instead of what they got from the Black Lives Matter,” said Henry.

The church was also at that event and generously handed out free bottled water and fruit as the protestors set out for their march to Hatch Road and back.

“We were there to say, ‘Hey, we may not agree with everything you stand for but we definitely agree that black lives matter and there has been a significant level of racism throughout the history of our country and we’ll stand with you.’ But at the same time, things that were said at the park was pretty ugly towards our law enforcement. And yet there the law enforcement stood protecting them anyway. And so we wanted to flip the tables, bring them (the police) to the park and say we’re here and appreciate you for putting your lives on the line.”

Also handed to the two officers who showed up were crosses decorated for the officers by the children who also wrote messages of affection and support.

“We just wanted to make sure they knew it wasn’t just the adults here; this is an intergenerational appreciation of what they mean to the community.”

Henry said while some churches have experienced a decline this year, the park events have been well attended. One of those attending was Councilman Bret Durossette who stepped in when he heard they wasn’t going to let the church use the gazebo for worship services.

“He got the ball rolling. He showed up on the second Sunday and he’s never stopped coming.”

The two Henrys have for decades been part of the Herb Henry Family southern gospel singing group.