WATCH: Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church Holds First Service Without Beloved Bishop Alexis Thomas After he Passes Away Unexpectedly at Age 50

It was the first Sunday since Alexis A. Thomas passed away. He was the senior pastor at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church.

He died on January 18 at the age of 50. He was a father, a husband and a distinguished member of the clergy. He preached his first sermon at just 7 years old.

“He was such an outgoing and lovable person,” said a church member.

Some members of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church say they’ve been hearing his word for 30 years.

“When you come to church, you feed your spirit. Just like when you’re hungry, you feed your body, you have to feed yourself. He was very adamant about Bible study, and that’s food for your spirit, so you just grow,” said Denise Bogan, a member of the church for 17 years.

They thank Bishop Thomas for transforming the church from a small, 200-member congregation to over 4,000 members.

“He didn’t preach down to you, but he was preaching straight from God as if He was talking to him personally,” said Joy Johnson, a member of the church for 20 years.

Today marked the first service without him and it was difficult, but members say they still felt his presence.

“I believe that he was in the room and they keep encouraging us that we have to forge ahead. That’s what he’d want us to do and that’s truly what we need to hear,” Johnson said.

He leaves behind a wife and five children.

“One of the things the bishop said, ‘If you ever hear that I’m dead, don’t believe it.’ He said, ‘Because I’m very much alive.’ And right now, he’s living more than he’s ever had. And we will miss him but we know he’s happy and where he’s supposed to be, with his father,” Bogan said.

They will be announcing his funeral arrangements within the next couple of days. We will keep you updated if you plan to attend.

SOURCE: Fox 10 Phoenix