For two nights over the weekend First Baptist Church in Tellico Village’s sanctuary was packed as visitors paid tribute and held “A Celebration of God and Country” in time for Memorial Day.

“It’s Memorial Day weekend and we wanted to honor those who have served and observe this special weekend in a special way with the ‘Celebration of God and Country’ in a special observance and those who sacrificed so much through the decades even to ensure the freedoms that we enjoy today,” the Rev David Whipple Jr., FBC minister of music and congregational life, said. “Here in the Village we have a lot of people have served, a lot of veterans, and we certainly want to honor them and celebrate all that they have done and the sacrifices they have made for our nation.”

The concert was held Saturday and Sunday to account for big crowds. Whipple estimated each concert brought in 350 people.

“Typically when we have a patriotic program — we have a lot of patriotic people in our community so they typically really come out for patriotic program,” Whipple said. “Then also since we’re coming out of all the COVID lockdown that we’ve been burdened with over the past year, people are anxious to get out and to celebrate and to share together in a concert.”

The Rev. Charlie Barnard, FBC senior pastor, agreed, adding people are “hungry to get back to some sense of normality.” He saw that firsthand both nights.

“They were here, we had a full house and ice cream afterwards and people stayed around and fellowshipped,” Barnard said. “They’re looking to get back to that, and this community’s very patriotic. God and country means a lot to this community and even though we’re observing — and that’s the correct word — we’re observing Memorial Day. We observe it with this ‘Celebration of God and Country’.”

Whipple said the concert included singers from the church choir and Tellico Village Singers, musicians from the church and Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, and the Loudon County Veterans Honor Guard presented each military branch flag. Sauni Rinehart was the event’s narrator.

For the few Tellico Village Singers, Saturday and Sunday served as a welcome return to performing in front of crowds.

“To see everybody again and to just hug and laugh and listen to music and to be able to sing again is the best gift we’ve had in a long time,” Rosie Ratcliffe, Singers member, said.

Ratcliffe said she was “excited” to return after not performing since March 2020.

Whipple hopes concerts like last weekend can serve as a connection with the community.

“Our desire is to reach our community with the love of Christ,” Whipple said. “Anytime we do a concert our desire is to really reach out to our community and show them the love of Christ through the concert event, through the music that’s done, the program that’s done. Of course we do that every week of course in worship, but for special events — sometimes people will come to a special concert where they might not necessarily come to a worship service on a weekend. This is just another opportunity to reach out to our community.”