When The Sanctuary church holds its inaugural service Sunday, Pastor Bryan Cockrell and his wife, Sharon, will set a new milestone in their lives. They will also mark the fifth anniversary of a family tragedy.
On the first Sunday in August 2001, their 14-year-old daughter, Jenna, was killed in a car wreck, along with 17-year-old Daniel Jones, as they drove to meet friends for lunch after church services at New Hope Worship Center.
Cockrell, who was a pastor at New Hope for 25 years, said God spoke to him about a month ago and told him to begin a new church in Evans. The Sanctuary will hold its first service at 1:30 p.m. at Riverside Baptist Church on Hardy McManus Road.
"It was after the fact that the Lord said, 'Do you remember what the first Sunday in August is?'" Cockrell said. "He said instead of that being a day to remember loss, he wanted that to be the birth of a new thing."
The Sanctuary is a nondenominational church and will feature services that blend traditional and contemporary worship styles, Cockrell said. He said he wants the service to appeal to a variety of people with a philosophy to restore and refresh souls.
At age 50, Cockrell said, some people might not think it makes sense to begin a church.
"I never thought at 50 I would be starting a new work," he said. "I'm just doing my best to follow what the Lord is telling me to do."
Instead of holding an early-morning service before Riverside's ceremonial, Cockrell said, he wants his congregation to be rested, share a family meal and attend church while others are having lunch.
"It doesn't matter what time we worship the Lord so long as we do," he said.
The Sanctuary also will hold Tuesday prayer services at 7 p.m. at Riverside.
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