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The church which is now 48 years old has been conducting memorial services for the deceased for over 34 years not.
Based on an interview Pastor Mike did with News Anyway, here are some of Pastor Mike's beliefs and insights about the Hopewell Baptist Church's funeral services.
Pastor Mike Ray came to the Hopewell Baptist Church 34 years ago and tried to connect with the people. At the time, 82 percent of the population in the town did not have a church to attend and did not assert a religious affiliation.
They had a statistic that in town, 82% of the people in our town did not have a church and did not claim a religious affiliation. This means that anytime a loved one would pass, there would be proper services planned.
Pastor Mike had to visit every funeral home in town and offered his services to them. He has never charged a fee for his services and for him, the job is not about the money. He believes everyone should have a proper memorial service.
The deceased person should be honored and remembered fondly.
Pastor Mike believes that a funeral is unrelated to the church and it does not have to be about a certain religion as well. All it is is about the person that has passed.
He recalls going to some funerals where the Pastor or the priest talking only about their church, religion, and the deceased was rarely mentioned. The funeral ministry at the Hopewell Baptist Church makes it a point that such practices are not undertaken.
Another goal of the funeral services is consoling the loved ones of the deceased. The pain of losing a loved one is unbearable and sometimes, it is hard to let go of grief. Grief can also manifest into other negative things such as denial, depression, blame, and aloofness.
The Hopewell Baptist Church try and comfort talking about eternity, and that there is life after death, as mentioned in John 14:1-6, "He has gone to prepare a place for us, that every person who’s accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior, has a home in heaven waiting for them."
Pastor Mike makes sure to never highlight the negatives in a person, even if a person did wrong deeds in his life. The point is to look at the positive side and allow the person to pass with honor.
The COVID 19 pandemic has not stopped the funeral services and a huge tent with chairs and an audio system has been set up in the backyard of the church. There are also arrangements for the live streaming of the services.
Pastor Mike does not charge for his services, but donations do occur time and again, which is all used to pay the bills, put fuel on the church's buses, or flowers for a funeral.
The Hopewell Baptist Church has put out a book called "A Christian Funeral", which shall guide other priests and pastors on how to conduct an interview, comfort the grieving, learning more about a departed loved one, how to pray, what messages to give at a funeral.
The service does not end at the church. The book also covers things like how a priest must help the family afterward. The book also covers a chapter on suicide as well.