Residents return to houses of worship during economic crisis
By Katelyn Gendron
Reminder Assistant Editor
AGAWAM -- The current economic downturn has caused more people throughout town to return to a safe haven -- their houses of worship.
Members of the Bethany Assembly of God, the Lighthouse Christian Center in Feeding Hills and other congregations have seen recent influxes in membership over the past several months. In light of the recent hardships facing parishioners, the Bethany Assembly of God has taken additional steps to assure worshipers that life will get better with the congregation s "Nothing s Too Hard for God" campaign.
During an interview with Reminder Publications, Tim Reed, Pastor of Assimilation at Bethany Assembly of God, explained that the campaign will help people to connect with others enduring similar hardships. The campaign reveals the stories of people who ve experienced loneliness, fear, loss, addiction, financial crises and other problems and have overcome.
"For us it's about having that personal relationship with God and coming to church helps to reaffirm what God can do in your life," he said. "We try to stay connected on a daily basis and [understand that] a reliance on God to help meet our needs, even though you don't know how to put food on the table. God had not abandoned them. Life is never hopeless."
Parishioners at Bethany Assembly of God have also taken up a special collection for those in need, despite their own economic hardships, Pat Adams, a member of the church, noted. She explained that the "Thanks Offering," which began two months ago, asks parishioners to give on behalf of what they're thankful for and in honor of those who may need financial assistance.
"We've had a phenomenal response from people," Adams said. "[They realize] somebody is always hurting worse than they are."
Kerri Craig, office manager for Lighthouse Christian Center, noted that there has been about a 10 percent increase in worshippers at their weekly Saturday night services throughout the past several months. She noted that worshippers also meet during the week at home cell groups.
Rev. Earl Eisenbach, senior pastor at Agawam Congregational Church, United Church of Christ on Main Street, said attendance is "picking up" and that parishioners are seeking guidance on financial matters.
"I am surprised to see some new people," he said. "Some of the new people are also seeking support and encouragement in their personal and financial lives. I've met with several who I've tried to help and refer [to employers] and encourage. I take their resume and give some ideas for [employment] possibilities. We try to help them find another job."
Bobbi Snyder, member of Bethany Assembly of God, explained that her congregation's nine-month membership process requires "more than coming once a week, sit in the pew and go home." Snyder explained that members become active participants in the church and learn how to better deal with their hardships well after the economy is booming again.
"In today's stressful society you can go and feel that you're not alone," she said.
For more information about the "Nothing's Too Hard for God Campaign," visit www.nothingstoohardforgod.org
Additional information about Lighthouse Christian Center can be obtained by logging onto www.fireofgod.com