‘Now it’s hit home’ Mississippi church hit by COVID-19 prepares to bury pastor, reverts to online services

Published 12:07 pm Thursday, July 23, 2020

A Mississippi Baptist church congregation is burying its pastor today and has returned to online-only services after several church members contracted the COVID-19 coronavirus and its longtime pastor died.

The Biloxi River Baptist Church announced the death of its pastor, Brother Allen Smith, 73 of Gulfport.

Smith’s funeral was planned for Thursday. Here is his obituary.

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The church had opened back up for in-person services in late May and thought they were being cautious, the church’s youth pastor Josh McDaniel told WLOX-TV.

“(We) took precautions, still socially distanced ourselves, and it got worse,” McDaniel told the TV station.

Pastor Smith had led the church since the 1980s.

“We are all heartbroken,” McDaniel told the TV station. “But one thing we know is he is in glory right now with his Savior so we are thankful for that.”

The church has reverted to online services and has continued to reach one another, sharing prayer requests and health updates on its sick members on social media.

Some of the church members remain hospitalized with COVID-19, the church reported, some in serious condition. Others have recovered but said they’re all dealing with the sudden loss of their long-time pastor, friend and church leader.

“Now, it’s hit home. This ain’t close to home, this is home. This took our pastor,” church member Danny Calhoun, said in a video posted to the church’s Facebook page.