Emotional, spiritual and sobering: those are just some of the words that describe the atmosphere at the Abundant Life Ministries church service Sunday morning. It’s the first service since the death of their pastor, Robert Gaines.
The pastor's son, Ryan, says his father touched many lives.
"I've gotten so many phone calls and text messages and things that people just told me ‘Your father helped me do this,’ and ‘Your father helped me do that,’ and that makes it so much better to get through the process,” Ryan Gaines said.
Pastor Gaines died Wednesday at the age of 54. He led the church since its founding more than a decade ago. Pastor Gaines was known by Brother Daryl Craig and the rest of his congregation as a man who lived the gospel.
"He was purposed man, dignified,” Craig said. “A man of integrity, great integrity...great integrity when it comes to caring about God's people."
Nearly a dozen parishioners and fellow pastors and ministers spoke during the service, recalling the impact Pastor Gaines had on them and the community, including his time creating the "Blue Coats," a group of community members who promote a non-violence peace initiative. Joshua Jones is a Blue Coat himself, and remembers Pastor Gaines fondly.
"He was my pastor, my brother, my friend. I talked to him, I prayed with him. He was a good man," Jones said.
Ryan Gaines says his father's impact will not only be felt by the church, but also in the city and beyond.
"Anyway we can help our youth in our city and our county progress, that was his main goal."
A memorial celebration for Pastor Gaines will be held Tuesday from 4:00p.m.-8:00 pm at Greater Bethlehem Temple Church 4103 Washington Avenue in Erie. The funeral is there as well on Wednesday at 11a.m.