Churches optimistic for new year

Madison Oody, left, and Mrecia Oody, members of Riverview Baptist Church, pray at Sunday’s service. The Rev. Gene Farmer, church pastor, hopes to see growth in numbers in 2021.

After shutdowns and low attendance, area churches are hoping 2021 brings increased membership and renewed faith.

The Rev. Don Hawkins, Crossroads Church of the Nazarene pastor, said the church’s goals for 2021 come in two parts.

“I think one thing that we need to do this year is to kind of reset and kind of reconnect with each other and get back to doing the things we’re used to doing,” Hawkins said. “Again, not knowing how long this thing’s gonna last, we’re kind of still under its constraints, but we can still try to kind of reconnect with each other and have the fellowship. We’ve always been a people that fellowship quite a bit, and we just got to get back to that so that we can kind of support each other better than we can at this time. That’s probably No. 1.”

The second priority focuses on fellowship and renewal.

“We are beginning to think about that this year could be a year of revival and spiritual renewal for the church,” Hawkins said. “We think that comes about through the word of God, through prayer and through the Holy Spirit. We’ve always been conscious of that. … That’s kind of our goal, and we’re trying to plan a public revival probably in September, but we’re just really wanting to emphasize renewal for the people of God. If we’re renewed, we can do more. We can be more active in our community and help people.”

At Loudon United Methodist Church, emphasis on community outreach will be at the forefront in 2021, the Rev. Amy Cook, pastor, said.

Through COVID-19, Cook said the church has managed to strengthen relationships in the community. A member at the church has fostered a strong relationship with Loudon Elementary School and brought certain needs to the church’s attention. Cook plans to follow up in the new year.

Going to an online platform also opened unexpected doors.

“We’ve been forced online,” Cook said. “We’ve been forced, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century, and we’ve made some really great connections, people who are supporting our church up in northern Virginia and folks who check in with us from England. We’ve expanded our circle through Facebook Live. Having services online, it’s kind of a unique experience. If somebody were to visit us, brick and mortar, you, of course, would see them. But being on Facebook, you don’t know who’s watching you. That’s been kind of cool. We’re going to follow up with some of those relationships locally and maybe get some of the folks outside of our local neighborhood introduced to a church where they might find a similar experience.”

Before the virus, the church began renovations to improve the accessibility of the building, including elevators, ramps and doors. Plans are to pick the project back up and see it through, Cook said.

The Rev. Gene Farmer, Riverview Baptist Church pastor, said he is optimistic for 2021 despite recognizing the challenges the church will face.

Farmer believes the new year will hold opportunities for more ministry and outreach. He has already begun preparations for what he hopes will be a successful year of growth.

“As we see some changes in the society around us, I’m convinced that it will bring people back that weren’t in church because of the COVID that’s been going on,” Farmer said. “We’re certainly down in attendance as all churches are. I believe that we’ll see new faces this coming year when this starts settling down and COVID is somewhat behind us. My goal is to be prepared for that ministry in our church, to have our ministries updated and in place, getting retroactive and those types of things. We’re already starting to promote back to some of our past ministries, but also engaging in some conversations of how we will need to communicate and minister to the community in this coming year.”

At the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, the Rev. Amy Morehous, pastor, and the congregational board will meet this month to discuss specific goals. She doesn’t make the goals herself but knows the church will place an emphasis on the community.

“I can say that one of our goals is to love the folks of Loudon County as much as possible in this year we have ahead of us,” she said. “We do that in many ways already, but we always think there’s more that we could be doing. I would say that’s one of our top goals.”