ONEONTA, Ala (WIAT) — A beloved Alabama pastor was laid to rest Wednesday after battling COVID-19 for around two months.
Union Hill Baptist Church Pastor Bill Barnett died late last week. The 66-year-old had been in the hospital for about 6 weeks, including 5 on a ventilator.
“We always felt like Bill was going to make it out of the hospital. We never expected anything any differently,” said Mike James, the current chair of the deacons.
James has known Barnett for almost 40 years. They’ve worshipped at two churches together.
“There is no other person that I know of that would spend as much time talking to you, listening to you, mentoring you, and sharing what he felt like how we needed to live our life,” said James.
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Barnett continued to offer online options for safe worship.
Days after his death, there is a void at the church and in the community.
“We know where he is going to spend the rest of his life. That is not a problem. The struggle is for us to grieve here on earth,” said James.
Barnett was active in international missions and Baptist organizations within Alabama. He had a passion for helping students. Barnett helped other teachers working with kids and vacation bible schools across Alabama.
“Helping them know how to teach them the bible, helping them know how to disciple, care for them, how to provide ministry for them,” said Daniel Edmonds, a longtime friend of Barnett.
Church members tell CBS 42 they plan to follow in Brother Bill’s giant footsteps along a familiar path.
“The message would be to the church to carry on. It is sort of like he is passing the torch to us,” said James.
Despite losing Barnett, loved one find comfort in the impact he continues to make after his passing.
“We need to be imitators of Bill as he imitated Christ. We are the people that need to step into that void,” said Edmonds.
Funeral services were held Wednesday for Barnett.
“I know there are hundreds and thousands of people who are walking up to Bill in heaven and saying thank you for sharing because I am a life that was changed because of what you did,” said James.
James said it was difficult for church members to learn of Barnett’s COVID-19 battle. He encouraged anyone with symptoms to seek medical attention and not wait.