A church from Sedgwick County, Kansas held a memorial service on Dec. 3 to allow families in the community remember the loved ones they lost during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when lockdowns prevented public gatherings.

The Baptist Press reported that the Immanuel Baptist Church held a Coronavirus Memorial Service last Friday to let families celebrate and honor their dead- something the pandemic prevented from being done in a normal memorial setting.

Immanuel Senior Pastor David Crowther said the service came in response to the need for it.

"We saw a need in many families where they had lost loved ones due to COVID during the last couple of years, and they were unable to have a fitting celebration-of-life service for their loved ones. A lot of people did not have the closure they needed when their loved one passed away," Crowther said.

"It really is an attempt to reach our community and our entire city in a way that we feel uniquely qualified to do because if the church doesn't have something to say about life and death, I don't know who does. So we just feel the church needs to be speaking about these issues. Everybody was thinking more about death than in many years in our nation," he added.

Crowther highlighted that families of COVID-19 casualties responded immediately to the offer for a memorial service with at least 50 having registered already on the eve of the event. He explained that the names of the deceased will be read aloud during the service and a candle will be lighted in honor of each one. He will then give a Gospel sermon.

In addition, Crowther said that counseling would also be offered after the service for those who are grieving and for those in need of guidance for "salvation decisions."

One of those who have will be attending the Coronavirus Memorial Service is Debbie Evert and her mother, Barbara Rich. Evert registered his father, Dale Rich, who died during the pandemic.

Evert told Baptist Press in an interview that they were prevented from being with Dale in his hospital room when he was sick. While Dale's funeral entailed "just a handful of folks at the mortuary" that was followed by a service at the graveside. During the interview, Evert stressed that things would have been different if there was no pandemic. Dale would have had a bigger service.

Evert disclosed that Rich was actually a "bonus Dad" for her since he treated her much like her two biological daughters. Evert lost her father in 1983 and during that time so many people came to church to honor his father. This is why she is just thankful that Immanuel offered the memorial service for those who died during the pandemic.

"If things had been normal, we would have been at Immanuel (Baptist Church) in the big auditorium...and we would have had a big celebration. (The service) was very meaningful. It was very good and true, but we would have had something so much larger, because he was certainly worth celebrating and such," Evert said.

"That's not enough for me. So I'm glad David has offered this to the church, to the city, so that we can celebrate these lives. I think it will be very meaningful," she emphasized.

In addition, Evert shared that Barbara similarly wanted to celebrate Dale's memorial with a larger group and this is the reason why she agreed to register with Immanuel's Coronavirus Memorial Service.

"I think part of why mom wanted to go, is just to celebrate with other people his life and remember him. They were married almost 35 years," Evert explained.