After more than a year, Total Praise Ministries congregation returns home

Published 4:00 am Sunday, August 22, 2021

On Sunday morning, the congregation of Total Praise Ministries Church celebrated a rebirth.

For the first time in more than a year, when COVID-19 forced church officials to discontinue in-person services in favor of streaming services online, the members held services in the church at 2009 Drummond St.

And when the congregation walked in, they found an improved building from the one they left.

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“We have been renovating the building,” said Pastor Gregory J. Butler. “We want to utilize that space to do what we need to get done. We’ve had the building about five years.”

He said contractors stripped the floor’s tiles and replaced them with a painted finish on the building’s concrete floors. A plumber was hired to renovate and expand the restrooms and a carpenter has been framing the building’s new classroom and the restrooms.

Fixing the floors, he said, required church members to remove and store the church’s 30 16-by-21 church pews.

“The bathrooms were old and substandard,” he said, adding renovations to the restrooms are underway to provide amenities and make them full-service facilities. They are expected to be completed next week, he said.

Other features are included to provide other services; part of what Butler said is a holistic approach to help his congregation and the community.

“We made a classroom. What that does is allow us to facilitate the vision God had given me to create a literacy program for seniors, middle age,” he said. “The problem I found out is our children are coming out illiterate about a lot of things — basic reading, math, but you also have a lot of middle-aged people who are afraid of computers.

“You can’t even get a job these days — you file for unemployment it’s almost all on your phone or on the computer,” he said. “If you’re afraid of it or have no idea how to use one, then it makes it real hard for you to survive.”

Survival, he said, means the community keeping up with the times, and from an education standpoint, that includes technology.

“So the goal is to provide classes at least two or three times a week in the church where we have four or five computers set up and if you want to learn about what a computer is, what is the internet, how to log on — all the basics that people who are around computers take for granted.”

He said the church has some teachers who will volunteer a couple of hours a week to teach reading, math and sciences.

Besides education, Butler said, “We also have a certified chaplain who offers counseling for mental health issues that will direct and guide (people) in the spirit on mental health issues.

“There were a number of things facility-wise that the building did not yield what we believe was needed,” he said. “We needed to have the proper facilities so people would feel comfortable coming in and with that, we will be offering basic mental health services, basic conference services, computer literacy and basic education for those who want help.”

Butler said the church had to discontinue in-person services because of COVID in March 2020.

“We held services on Facebook and Zoom. We wouldn’t have been able to survive if hadn’t,” he said. “Sunday, we’re reopening. We’re going to march into the church and have a regular worship service for the first time together in more than a year.”

He said members would meet at 10:30 a.m. and service begins at 11.

Butler said the congregation will practice social distancing and follow state and city requirements.

“We will have a sanitary station and people will be asked to wear masks,” he said. “We will also ask that if a person is not vaccinated to watch service online. We’re not telling you not to come, but if you are not vaccinated we are going to strongly recommend that you follow the worship service on Facebook or Zoom. We will send you the link.

“If vaccinated, we will want you to practice social distancing and still practice those things that are necessary for good health. We don’t want to do anything that is outside what the governor has asked, what the mayor has asked, and that’s our mandate.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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