With Average Attendance Under 10, Nevada Church Gathers Amid Pandemic

Kingston Village Baptist Church in Kingston, Nev., is so small it has continued to meet during the COVID-19 pandemic without breaking state guidelines that limit meetings to 10 people.
Submitted photo

KINGSTON, Nev. (BP) — Mule deer outnumbered the handful of Kingston Village Baptist Church members at a recent open-air Easter sunrise service. Worshipping during the COVID-19 pandemic is no bother for the church where attendance has been less than 10 for years.

“We meet on Sunday mornings, a very small group of us, anywhere from three to five, for Bible study at 9:30,” pastor Jim Fitch said. “And then our worship service is at 11 o’clock. We follow that with a fellowship meal.”

“Geographically quarantined” is how Fitch describes the unincorporated town of Kingston, where the U.S. Census counted 113 people in 2010, and the nearest Walmart is hours away. The nearest Southern Baptist churches are two congregations in Austin, Nev., about 65 miles north.

Of the 113 people in town, about a dozen consider Kingston Village Baptist their church home, although the church doesn’t have a formal count. Members range in age from late 40s-80s.

“The guidelines are to protect us,” Fitch said, “and we’re within those guidelines.”

Worship never exceeds 10 people, the gathering guidelines mandated by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak.

Fitch recalls the 2019 Easter service in the fresh canyon air.

“The town park is right adjacent to the church,” he said, “so we had an old 55-gallon oil drum out there with fire in it for warmth, because it was cold. We met and we were singing hymns, and in the middle of that, 20 mule deer walked up and some of them walked right into our circle with us. We had a total attendance I think that morning of 29. Nine people and 20 deer.”

The church repeated its Easter tradition in 2020, but he doesn’t want others to think he takes the coronavirus lightly. He said he’s closely monitoring the pandemic.

“Well, we’ve got to be responsible. We’ve got to do two or three things. One is, we’re responsible for each other, so we don’t do anything that risks us,” Fitch has told his congregation. “And the second is that we don’t want to appear to the community as though we’re disregarding, and that we’re something special, and that we’re immune, because we’re not.”

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Source: Baptist Press