Dr. Julius Zant, a respected retired neurosurgeon-turned-pastor who was attacked by an armed man who threatened to kill him inside a Maryland church as he conducted a Bible study with his parishioners last Thursday, bravely fended off the robber by invoking the name of Jesus.
"He has this black holster and it looked like it had a gun in it, and he's demanding this and one of the ladies actually took out her phone and [p]ut it on the table," Zant told ABC 47 of the robber who ordered him and his flock to hand over their phones and money.
"I stood up and said, 'No, we're not having this. We're not doing this.' And I walked around and walked up to him and said, 'Leave in Jesus name,'" Zant said.
The incident took place at the St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Princess Anne. The church's rector, Fr. Robert Laws, told The Christian Post on Thursday that Zant's church, the New Life Apostolic Church, rents space from the parish to conduct the weekly Bible study sessions.
"I think that when I told him that we were here worshipping God, that he changed. His demeanor changed, and it was as if an awareness came to him that perhaps this wasn't the right thing for him to do," Zant explained.
Despite backing off a little when the retired neurosurgeon invoked the name of Jesus, Zant said the robber then tried to attack him again.
"He never pointed it (weapon) at my head but he touched my neck with the thing. He was saying he didn't want to do it. And I'm saying, 'Well then, don't do it. You don't have to do this,'" Zant explained. "In this situation it was a matter more-or-less of just standing in the gap. People were being threatened. And it was just a response to the situation."
Zant was unavailable for further comment Thursday but Laws told CP that the incident has not deterred the church, and Zant and his group will be meeting for Bible study on Thursday night.
He explained, however, that the church has beefed up security and will meet with law enforcement officials next Wednesday to discuss how churches can improve their security.
"We are going to be meeting with the sheriff next Wednesday, [along] with other churches in the town who want to come. He's gonna be talking about how to keep churches safe. He's gonna offer a training for active shooters. At the moment we have already started locking the doors and having a guard at the door during mass and those kind of things," laws said.
He said there was no video of the suspect entering the church premises and he wasn't sure how many people were at the Bible study. He explained that it was an open meeting and anyone can attend off the street. Zant's church, he said, also often provided dinner after the Bible study, and said he was told the attack occurred during the dinner portion of the meeting.
"He (Dr. Zant) just mentioned that this tall masked man came in and demanded their cell phones. I think he demanded money and pointed to a holster that had some sort of weapon in it. He didn't draw it out at the moment. Dr. Zant just told him no we're not gonna give you any money," Laws said.
"He told him, 'In the name of Jesus you need to leave,' and I think it kind of startled the man. The man told Dr. Zant, 'I don't want to kill you,' and Dr. Zant said, 'well don't,' and the man fled at that point," Laws said.
The rector said the robber managed to escape with the cell phones of some people at the meeting. He is currently still at large.
"No one recognizes him, no one knew who he was," Laws said.
Zant said the experience has only inspired his already stoic faith.
"The power of God is real. You know, the Lord is my Shepherd. He prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemy. It is real. The power of God is real. The protection of God is real," he said.