PARKERSBURG - One church has found a way to bring people in Super Bowl Sunday.
As people around the Mid-Ohio Valley gathered at homes and restaurants with family and friends to either cheer on the Baltimore Ravens or the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, the people of Fairlawn Baptist Church near Lubeck held their annual Super Bowl watching party.
Around 150 members and friends gathered at the church's fellowship hall Sunday evening to watch the game on a large screen with a projection television. People brought in all of their favorite football foods and arranged it buffet-style on four tables for people to partake throughout the game. Many of the young kids had been working on their annual Easter program before coming to watch the game with their families. The church held a small prayer service before the game and a small service at half-time.
Twenty-month-old Cooper Welch cheers for the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday during Fairlawn Baptist Church’s annual Super Bowl watching party. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)
Fairlawn Baptist Church Pastor Greg Varndell, left, watches Super Bowl XLVII with members and guests during the church’s annual Super Bowl watching party. Varndell said he was wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey as “wishful thinking” as he looks forward to next year. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)
This is the fifth year the church has held a Super Bowl watching party, said Pastor Greg Varndell.
"It is a great opportunity for our families to come together," he said. "We not only enjoy the game but we also get to enjoy some food and fellowship.
"It is also a great way to reach out to the community and for our families to invite their friends."
Most people usually stick it out through the whole game, but many parents with young children generally leave shortly after half-time to get the kids ready for bed, Varndell said.
Fred Morgan, of New England Ridge, came for the fellowship of his Christian friends and to have a good time. He liked the idea of the church opening its doors on the night of the Super Bowl and having people come together.
"Our motto is doing whatever we can to win one more to Christ," Morgan said. "A church is its people."
Morgan said he was rooting for the team that ended up with the most points.
"My team isn't here," he said with a laugh. "I was trying to find a reason to root for one team."
Certain players, like the 49ers' Randy Moss, had played for Marshall University. Morgan tried to find connections to West Virginia or faith-based actions on both teams, but neither one outdid the other in his view.
"I just decided to root for whoever got the most points," he said.
Varndell said the event brings in more people every year and there is a sense of family among his congregation.
"It has certainly grown over the years," he said. "One of the things people get is a sense of family.
"We want to do everything we can to reach one more person with the Gospel. We see this as an opportunity to do two things. One, is to share the love of Christ in a practical way. Two, we get to enjoy football."
Larry McDonald, of Lubeck, said the gathering always brings a lot of people out to the church.
"We like to come out and congregate and have a good time," he said. "There are some people we don't get to see very often."
He was rooting for the 49ers.
"I would kinda like to see San Francisco win," McDonald said Sunday night. "My nephew is a San Francisco fan so I would like to see them win for him."
Lubeck resident Bill Sprouse was not rooting for either team in particular and came to be with other church members.
"It is a good time for everyone to come together and enjoy," he said.
The church holds a number of events throughout the year.
"There is always food involved," Sprouse said with a laugh.
Amber Welch's husband, Mark, is a big 49ers fan and they are bringing up their son, Cooper, to be a 49ers fan as well. All three were wearing 49ers shirts on Sunday night. Whenever anyone said "touchdown," 20-month-old Cooper raised his arms to signal the touchdown.
Amber Welch enjoyed the chance for her family to get out and spend time with their church family.
"It allows people to gather to fellowship and have a good time," she said.
Varndell spent the entire evening wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey.
"It is wishful thinking," he said. "I am looking towards next year."