‘We believe that God’s grace can overcome any weaknesses’

Published 10:05 am Sunday, April 10, 2022

For more than a century, Christ Church has served the faithful in Harlan County.

Located on the corner of Williams and Central Streets, across from Harlan High School and Elementary School, the church’s current church building was completed in February of 1931 although the Episcopal Church had a presence since at least 1912 in Harlan.

Christ Church is the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement in Harlan County, part of the Mountain Ministry region of the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington.

“Biblically based, we believe that the Bible contains all things necessary for salvation, we are a mixing of Protestant and Catholic expressions of belief and worship,” Pastor Bryant Kibler Sr. said. “We believe in the historic creeds of the Church, the Nicene and Apostles’ and as such, believe all who have a desire to live a life following the love expressed by Jesus Christ to all of the human race are welcome. Knowing that none of us are good enough or holy enough to earn the love of Jesus, we believe that God’s grace can overcome any weaknesses and failings we have as we all as sinners seek to follow in His footsteps.”

Kibler serves as the priest-in-partnership of Christ Church and four other churches and supervises a total of nine from Corbin, Middlesboro, Morehead, and Mt. Sterling and all others in between. He was first ordained in 1983 and has served congregations from the Tennessee state line to the Ohio river over those years, with only eight of those years serving a single congregation. He has served Christ Church since 2014.

Worship services are on Sundays at 11 a.m. Normally, Holy Communion is offered the first and third Sundays with sermon; Morning Prayer the second and fourth Sundays.

Kibler said when the community gathers on a fifth Sunday, the congregation is part of that rotation. In some situations, such as April, the church alters its schedule to have communion on both the Sunday the Passion: Palm Sunday and Easter. Church also holds a Maundy Thursday service and Good Friday service at 7 p.m. In non-Covid years, church also hosts Lessons and Carols early Christmas Eve with the Musettes and Midnight Mass with the Harlan Boys’ Choir.

Prior to Covid, the church’s average Sunday attendance was around 23 souls. Recently, the congregation’s attendance has approached the high teens along with those who take part on the recorded Facebook page services of Morning Prayer and sermon.

“We are comprised of doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, small business owners, hourly workers, retired and teens,” Kibler said. “On a given Sunday, you can find people who have lived in Harlan County their whole lives to others born in foreign countries and people who have served as missionaries outside the United States.”

The church is very warm, welcoming and accepting.

“While small in numbers, the diversity within the community is surprising,” Kibler said. “We are comprised of people who have come from many faith traditions, where here at Christ Church they have found they can worship God while being accepted as travelers along the road. Some of our community have advanced professional degrees while others have completed high school or have GED’s.”

Church’s small congregation size creates a caring faith community.

“One advantage of our size is that we know each other and there is great caring for each other, and yet at the same time, while youth have graduated and moved away, new people come in and are not just welcomed, but accepted as fully participating members,” Kibler said.
For those folks seeking more information, Pastor Kibler can be reached at 606-464-9714 or bkibler@diolex.org.