The pandemic hit churches hard, diminishing their numbers and discouraging many members from returning when it finally subsided, as the Rev. Jimmy Braswell attests.

“A lot of churches have closed down and some have combined,” said the Rev. Braswell, interim pastor of Bethany Christian Church at 4522 N. Everglade Ave. and a Home Hospice chaplain. “Our church hasn’t recovered well enough to have a full-time pastor because a lot of people are no longer attending and some moved away. It has been a difficult recovery.

“The country churches have limited resources, but they have done better and been healthier than the ones in town.”

Braswell reported on Feb. 16 that Bethany had had an encouraging 30 attend its previous 10:45 a.m. Sunday service. “We’re taking it step by step to see how God leads us to reach out,” he said.

Braswell had been preaching a “History’s Mystery” series about God’s leadership and was preparing to start on the Book of Revelation. “I used a train as an illustration,” he said.

“God is the engine, the initiator, and we are the coal car in our acceptance of the message and our fellowship as people-movers. The caboose will be the end of time with the coming of Christ.”

The 67-year-old pastor said his reflections on Revelation had been supplemented by his study of the writings of Toronto clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson, whose 2016 book, “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos,” was a bestseller.

Braswell is a native of Hobbs, N.M., who grew up in Odessa and graduated from Permian High School in 1973. He earned a bachelor’s degree in religion at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene and two master’s degrees and a doctorate at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. He was pastor of St. Andrew Cumberland Presbyterian Church from 2004-19. He and his wife Jody have two children.

The Rev. Larry Hood, who has followed him at St. Andrew Cumberland, first met Braswell when he was a college student visiting his mother at Medical Center Hospital after her heart attack. “Jimmy sat with us all day long,” Hood said.

“He is a poster child of what a true minister should be. I have seen his calendar and there is not much white space on it, but he makes it seem like he has all the time in the world.”