Family and friends surrounded Bishop Nealon Guthrie — with contactless love — outside of Greater Christ Temple Rapture Preparation Cathedral.
The celebration on Saturday marked the 93rd birthday of the bishop, who has been serving the Rome community for over 60 years.
Back in 1957, Guthrie began preaching at 1516 Flannery St. at Christ Temple. Exactly 30 years later, he built Greater Christ Temple Rapture Preparation Cathedral on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive where Peggy’s brothel once stood.
Guthrie retired in 2015 as bishop of the 30th Episcopal District of the State of Georgia, but continues to preach today. Only now, it’s virtual and streamed on Facebook live.
The bishop’s son, Bishop J.D. Guthrie, and his family drove up from Atlanta on Saturday to help celebrate his father’s birthday. The rest of Guthrie’s family, who reside in Portland, Oregon, and Indianapolis, Indiana, sent in videos wishing him a happy birthday.
The drive through birthday party was hosted by the bishop’s two children, J.D. and Deborah Lewis, as well as a large number of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Everyone wore masks and many also wore gloves to help maintain social distancing standards. Guthrie himself wore blue gloves and a mask to match his dress shirt and tie. With a top hat on his head, the bishop was ready to celebrate.
Members of the bishop’s congregation, as well as his friends, drove by the church with signs and balloons to wish him a happy birthday. Gospel music blasted from speakers outside the church and Bishop Guthrie couldn’t help but begin dancing as he greeted people.
The first 93 people received goody bags containing peppermints and a bookmark with a poem the bishop wrote himself.
Evangelist Elaine Owens talked highly of the bishop, who has been a mentor to her for 18 years. Despite being 93 years old, he continues to preach and moves across the pulpit “like Michael Jackson.” Owens also said Guthrie can quote any Scripture from the Bible, from Genesis to Revelations.
Guthrie greeted each car with enthusiasm, despite being in a vest and dress pants in 80 degree weather.
“Without a past, you don’t have a future. I look back on my 93 years of life and feel very blessed,” the bishop said.