Faith and Family: First Presbyterian Church to honor first responders
NATCHEZ — First Presbyterian Church, 400 State St., will honor first responders with a special service and luncheon beginning at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
The Rev. Joan Gandy, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, said this would be the second year the church has hosted the special service for first responders, such as firefighters and police officers.
“We did it last year, and it was a really big success,” Gandy said. “It was a big blessing for our congregation, and we had, we thought, a wonderful response from our guests, so we decided this should be an annual event.”
The first event was held in March last year, Gandy said, and the church chose to hold the event on March 24 this year, which happened to coincide with Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell’s Community Prayer Service set for 5 p.m. that same day.
“That makes it a really beautiful day for us,” Gandy said. “We look forward to both of those services.”
Grennell said he would attend the First Presbyterian event, too.
“It is really nice for them to do that,” Grennell said.
Gandy said she and her church members believe first responders — including firefighters, police and law enforcement officers, medical personnel, emergency technicians and others — are unsung heroes in the community.
“They are always waiting to step out if they need to,” Gandy said, “and put themselves in harm’s way. They don’t get enough thanks for what they do, so we decided this would be a good way just to thank them in a worship service, give thanks to God and them for what they are willing to do for their community, and treat them to a big luncheon.”
Gandy said the meal, which will begin after the church service at approximately 11:30 or 11:45 a.m., would be similar to a traditional Thanksgiving meal with turkey, ham, dressing and all of the trimmings.
“It’s brought by congregation members,” Gandy said. “It should be really wonderful.”
Everyone, regardless of church affiliation, is welcome to attend, Gandy said.
“We would love to have any guests who might be interested in coming and helping us celebrate the lives and the work of these heroes,” Gandy said.
First responders are particularly important in the community in recent months, Gandy said, with a spate of violence that resulted in 14 murders in Natchez and Adams County last year and four murders already this year.
“Everyone is aware and everyone is dismayed, I think, that our beautiful community does once in a while suffer what all small communities are going through right now,” Gandy said. “Violence is erupting in places you would never have expected it to be present. Our community is not immune to that. I think part of our prayer has to be every day, that God would protect all communities in the world, not just in our nation and our state and our community. Bring peace where there is violence and hope where there is despondence. We hope that people will pray for that every day.”
Gandy said the service would also acknowledge first responders who cannot attend for whatever reason, whether because they are on duty or because of other obligations.
Many first responders, Gandy said, are not obvious to the general public, and they include hospital personnel, public works employees, who clean debris from streets and roads after storms, and electrical workers who restore power.
“It is a time just to give thanks for all of those people,” Gandy said.