When Freedom River Church in Gulfport began eight years ago, pastors Keith and Tanya Thrash said they hoped to establish a place where people who were disillusioned with the traditional church could meet and learn to follow God without judgment.
On Oct. 28, 2007, church members held their first service, meeting in temporary locations, including at Cinemark Theater for a while and then in a storefront on Dedeaux Road.
By 2010, the church moved to a storefront next to Goodwill on U.S. 49 in Gulfport that gave the congregation more than 5,000 square feet in which to gather. That location, the pastors say, has proved to be a blessing to the church as they continue to meet there.
Children's pastors John and Kathy Eustace keep the kids busy and informed with times of learning and play.
The church's youth group is led by youth pastor Abby Birkey.
Keith Thrash has been in ministry for 40 years and has been married to Tanya Thrash for 38 years. Keith Thrash said he performs baptisms the "old-fashioned way" in a pond at a Saucier farm, where church members meet and hold communion on a family-friendly day of fun and commitment.
The church will begin a Year in Review celebration at 10 a.m. Sunday, reflecting on how God has led them thus far. Fellowship will follow at a local campground.
"You know that a pastor is your shepherd when he speaks and it touches your heart," Keith Thrash said. Sermons are delivered mostly in series format and the church offers small group meetings throughout the week at various locations on the Coast.