UTICA — In his career as a pastor, the Rev. Joseph Salerno said he had never seen a situation as disruptive as one Saturday that prompted a police response to Our Lady of Lourdes Church in South Utica.

The incident ended peacefully, but Salerno said the church now plans to explore protocols in case something like this happens again.

"Under the circumstances with absolutely no preparation, I think we handled it pretty well," he said.

It was around 3:45 p.m. when a 62-year-old Utica man entered the 2222 Genesee St. church, police said. The man then started yelling and disrupting church property prior to the 4 p.m. Mass.

Salerno, who was in the church sacristy when he first heard noises, said he engaged the man and at times tried to lead him outside. Several parishioners, meanwhile, circled around the two as they waited for the Utica Police Department to arrive — which occurred no more than five minutes after officers were called, Salerno said.

The pastor believes more than 200 people were gathered inside Our Lady of Lourdes when the man arrived Saturday, and more still were arriving.

Salerno said the man drank from the baptismal font and used the water to wash his face. The pastor said he was particularly worried about a satchel the man had, which he feared might contain a weapon or an explosive.

"You just didn't know what he was going to do next," Salerno said.

Ultimately, the man was charged with one count of disrupting a religious service, which is a misdemeanor, police said. As policy, the Observer-Dispatch does not typically identify individuals charged with non-violent crimes lower than felonies.

Salerno said he will meet with a Utica police officer to discuss the situation. In addition, several parishioners involved in law enforcement, security and mental health have stepped forward, Salerno said, and the church plans to form a team to plan future protocols.

In a release, the Utica Police Department described the parishioners' actions Saturday as "brave." Utica police Sgt. Michael Curley said the department does not advocate for anyone putting themselves in harm's way.

"That being said, if it becomes a more serious situation prior to any police arrival and the situation dictates that an individual needs to be addressed or contained, we'll let the situation dictate itself rather than have a standard operational procedure," he said, asked whether parishioners acted appropriately. "We're not going to second-guess the parishioners. We feel they did what they needed to keep themselves and the rest of the congregation safe."

Curley said the department believes the man was charged appropriately.

"We certainly advocate and appreciate anyone's First Amendment right to express themselves in a manner," he said, "But when it infringes on somebody's right to be free from annoyance or alarm ... once it becomes disruptive to the group or the public, I think it becomes different from their right of expression."

Contact reporter Greg Mason at 315-792-5074 or follow him on Twitter (@OD_Mason).