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Sandy Soil Solution

Church makes a lasting impression by building a pavilion for community graveside services.
An Assemblies of God congregation in the Florida panhandle has turned over the grave in order to go outside the walls of the church to help out its community.

Living Waters Assembly of God in Apalachicola recently built a pavilion at Magnolia Cemetery for the town of 2,300, to be used for graveside funeral and committal services.

Located near the coastline, Apalachicola has soil that is extremely sandy, which makes graveside services dangerous. With growing frequency, attendees near a casket have fallen into the hole dug for the deceased when soil gave way. That has caused some cemeteries to ban graveside services.

Apalachicola Mayor Van W. Johnson is appreciative of the pavilion project.

“This community is humbled by the thoughtfulness and kindness showed in this regard and in many other endeavors by pastor Scotty Lolley and the members of his church,” Johnson says. “It all demonstrates a passion for the community in which they are called to minister.”

Chala Parish Amison, owner of Kelley Funeral Home, also is grateful for the compassionate effort.

“The committal pavilion allows us a way to ensure valuable heritage is still honored,” Amison says. “It will provide us an avenue to allow for something secure, beautiful, and different.”

Lolley came up with the idea after he attended a graveside service in neighboring Port St. Joe, Florida, where he observed a similar setup. After going to a Rural Compassion conference hosted by Convoy of Hope, he saw the pavilion project as a way to build bridges in Apalachicola.

“This was a great way of letting our community know the vision of Living Waters Assembly of God is not inwardly focused, but rather outwardly focused on those around us,” says Lolley, 44. Lolley, who served as a Florida Highway Patrol state trooper for 10½ years before becoming Living Waters pastor in 2013, says the congregation with 100 adherents responded to the project without hesitation.

West Florida District Council Superintendent Tommy L. Moore says the pavilion development reflects the heart of Lolley and Living Waters.

”They have been a strategic part of our Hurricane Michael recovery effort and now have made a lasting impression on the community,” he says. “After participating in several Rural Compassion training events, Living Waters AG has become more active than ever in the community.”

Initially, town officials, graveyard personnel, and funeral home employees all expressed skepticism about the plan. They acquiesced after being convinced the church indeed would donate the entire $11,000 to make the project a reality. The pavilion has opened doors for the church to minister.

James C. Kennedy, a deacon at Living Waters, says the pavilion has allowed the congregation to extend help to those in need.

“Many people have responded with strong support for the church and its willingness to serve,” Kennedy says. “Our church has seen firsthand how God can use those willing to go out and serve.”

Lolley says the building of the pavilion — for which the town committed an additional $10,000 to install memorial benches — has caused many people to ask questions.

“On several occasions, we had unsaved members of our community pull up, get out of their vehicles and ask us to pray with them,” says Lolley. “Several families have visited and others regularly attend our services stating that they want to be a part of a church that is busy showing people they care about them.”

Eric Tiansay

Eric Tiansay has been a full-time journalist since 1993, writing articles for Christian media since 2000. He lives in central Florida, where he is an active member of an Assemblies of God church.