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St. John Baptist Church is hosting an outdoor COVID-19 memorial service, and all are welcome
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Gainesville's St. John Baptist Church is holding a memorial service on Saturday to remember and honor those who died from COVID-19. It will take place outdoors on the church lawn. - photo by Scott Rogers

Red, white and blue flags will soon cover the main campus lawn of St. John First Baptist Church to honor those who died from COVID-19 in Gainesville and across the nation.

The church and the congregation’s Mission in Action Ministry welcomes the community to join in a memorial service at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 27, to remember the lives lost to the virus over the past year.

The event, called “The Afterglow,” will be spearheaded by the Rev. Stephen Samuel of St. John First Baptist and Catherine Wilmont, who leads the ministry. 

“I hope that they’ll realize how COVID has affected most people, and it affects them in different ways,” Wilmont said. “We’re in the same storm, but not in the same boat.”

When people gather on the lawn Saturday, they’ll notice dozens of flags planted in the ground, some with names and some without. Wilmont said St. John Baptist members, with permission, will attach names to the flags of people who have died from COVID-19. 

The Afterglow

What: Memorial service to honor those who have passed away from COVID-19 locally and nationwide

When: 3 p.m. Saturday, March 27

Where: St. John Baptist Church Gainesville main campus lawn, 747 E.E. Butler Parkway, Gainesville 

Those wanting to submit a name can reach out to St. John Baptist’s front office at 770-532-0511. Wilmont said the blank flags in the memorial will represent other COVID-related deaths across the country. 

The service on Saturday will include a message from Samuel, singing and a time of  remembrance for local residents who were homeless and who died from the virus. Wilmont said the event will end with the release of four balloons, which symbolize the Father, Son, Holy Spirit and those who have died from COVID-19.

“We’ve (St. John Baptist) have thought about how many people are suffering from the loss of loved ones,” Wilmont said. “We wanted the community of Gainesville to know that we share their pain, and we are concerned about their loss.”

Timeka Brownlee, member of Mission in Action Ministry, said the event was named “Afterglow” to represent the time of healing after tragedy and hardship.

“The afterglow is basically how do we move forward in our community, and how do we support each other,” she said. “The flags will be a constant reminder to families that you’re not alone. Your loved one is safe in God’s arms, and we are here with you at any time.”

Brownlee said those who attend the outdoor service will be asked to wear masks and practice social distancing.

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