Kentucky Baptists look forward to being together again for Easter – Winchester Sun
BY MARK MAYNARD
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) – Pastor Chad Fugitt remembers last Easter as a surreal moment when they live streamed a four-person service at the Ormsby Heights Baptist Church shrine.
“We had about five of us on Sunday morning to do the live stream,” he said. “I preached on hope for the pandemic. I know a lot of people have been online, watching YouTube and Facebook, but it was surreal. Here we were on Easter Sunday preaching about hope for the pandemic and I looked at five people. “
This Easter celebration will be different for Ormsby Heights and almost every other Kentucky Baptist Church.
“We’re excited,” said John Lucas, pastor of Pikeville First Baptist Church. “It was a year like no other, completely unprecedented. We can hold the Easter service in person and be close to each other. We have taken that for granted for so long. To have it back now is incredible. “
Last year, Lucas spoke at a drive-through service in a sloping parking lot at Pikeville High School because the church parking lot couldn’t accommodate enough cars.
But preaching in front of cars can also seem a little artificial, especially at Easter.
“I remember thinking to myself that these were the early stages of the pandemic and that this was so unusual and strange, but knowing that one day we would come out of it gave me hope. When we get to the other side and people come back these services get so much sweeter. We won’t take it for granted again. “
Pastor Mike Blankenship of Oakland Avenue Baptist Church in Catlettsburg said he also held the Easter service online last year. He said it was the first time in more than 40 years that he was out of church at Easter.
“It was definitely weird to be sitting at home (at Easter),” he said. “Since we returned to full-time services last May, our people still haven’t gotten over how grateful they are to be at church every Sunday. They don’t take it for granted because the pandemic took it away for a while. You are so happy to be back in church. “
Blankenship said one member simply collapsed and cried in the hallway on her first Sunday in church.
He said they regained 60 to 70% of the pre-COVID attendance. “We had people in church last Sunday who hadn’t been there since February or March of last year,” said the pastor.
Lucas said skipping the normal Easter service last year spurred Church members to Sunday services when they would gather in the church rather than in a parking lot.
“People will show up at Easter. We want to use it as a contact. As in eternity, we can’t take anything for granted, ”he said.
What the pandemic has done, however, is allowing the church to evaluate the programs in place and determine which ones are promoting the gospel and which may need tweaking or eliminating, Lucas said.
“It’s like replanting the church,” he said. “We had to think from the ground up. Many things that we used to do that were built into tradition have been taken off the table by COVID. Now we can be optimistic about why we did things and put them back on purpose.
“COVID has removed the phrase” we’ve never done it this way “from our vocabulary.”
Adam Hackworth, a young pastor at Perryville Baptist Church, was unable to hold a personal service last Easter. But this Sunday he will be leading three services, two at his church and a sunrise service at the Perryville Battleground, which is part of the region’s Ministerial Association’s Easter program.
“I was preaching in front of an empty church,” he said last year when he had to record his message. Hackworth said he couldn’t put into words how that affected him. He is excited and has his message ready for Sunday.
“The essence of this is that we have lived our lives so closed, but the resurrection opens it up to the most amazing opportunity and that is a life with Christ,” he said. “This will be my first Easter (as a pastor) with people (in the audience). Something is happening here. We are excited to see what God is doing. “
Fugitt said they are moving Easter services to the Family Life Community Center because they can bring 500 to that building with social distancing. “Our people long to worship together,” he said.
“We have decided to have a great day of worship. We closed our small groups for Sunday and moved the service time to 10 a.m. We invite our entire church family to come together on Easter Sunday and hear the gospel. “
Fugitt said they will follow all social distancing guidelines, prompting them to move the service to the larger room on the church campus.
Despite the pandemic, Fugitt said the church has become a member and has about 85% of the pre-COVID numbers.
However, he looks forward to preaching to more than four people in the church this Easter.