PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - The Easter celebration is the same for Christians across the world, but for Church on the Rock in Pascagoula, it has another meaning as well. The church uses its Easter Service to unite an entire community.
"You've probably heard it said before that 11:00 o'clock on Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour in America, and it's so sad," said Pastor Rodger Bradley.
It's been his mission since he arrived at Church on the Rock to do something to bridge the racial, social and economic divide that he says plays a big role in churches nationwide. Maurice Nulta, a member at Church on the Rock, said Bradley has already seen some success.
"Church on the Rock has thrown that out the window," said Nulta, when asked about segregation in churches.
This year, Church on the Rock rented out the Jackson County Civic Center, and filled it with 1,200 chairs for their Easter service. The chairs filled up and many people stood around the sides of the room during the service.
Church members said a big portion of the people who were there weren't members. Some were friends, and some were people who didn't have anywhere else to go to celebrate Easter. The church even bussed in several homeless people who wanted to attend.
Several members shared their testimonies on cardboard signs during the service. The testimonies had a myriad of different things on them. Some divulged about past drug addictions, some told of vanity from long ago and others talked about insecurities.
The back of each cardboard sign, however, was almost uniform. They each talked about current contentment and happiness. Some members said the cardboard signs sent a powerful message of unity throughout the crowd.
"We all have our problems. We all have our struggles, and some are just more obvious than others," said Bradley. "It's not uncommon to see a homeless person sitting next to an attorney, worshiping the same God in the same way, and that's our goal."
"It gives everyone a home," added Nulta. "Everyone becomes more a family. We're not going to be segregated by race or by color or by anything else. It's [the church] able to function in the way Jesus intended."
And to this church, that's a reason to celebrate. Church on the Rock normally holds Sunday services at its main location on Chicot St. in Pascagoula.