Bishop Eddie's Long's extravagant $250,000 Easter Sunday service will not be held at the Georgia Dome this year for the first time in over a decade. The New Birth Missionary Baptist Church was forced to scale back its Easter services after seeing its membership (and tithes) decline by 20%.
Since 1993, the megachurch held its Easter services at the Georgia Dome in downtown Atlanta, attracting crowds of up to 40,000 that included celebrities such as T.I. and Patti LaBelle. But this year's Easter service will move back to the 10,000 seat sanctuary in Suburban Atlanta. The recession hit New Birth hard, whittling the 25,000 member congregation down to nearly half that.
Bishop Long, who routinely preaches his sermons dressed in expensive tailored suits and dripping in diamonds, acknowledges that his members are no longer receptive to his "prosperity" message since many of them have lost their jobs and homes.
"In this time of recession, we had to look at some different ways of doing things," Long said. "The unemployment situation, the mortgage situation has definitely affected our members. This money could be better utilized to bless more people, feed more people."
Bishop Long is known around Atlanta for his extravagant lifestyle, driving expensive cars and wearing flashy clothes. But despite the recent decline in tithing and offerings, Bishop Long pledged to continue charitable services such as a blood drive, health screenings, a clothing drive, haircuts, dinner for the needy and job assistance.
"This recession has hit across the board very, very hard," Long said. "But I see a whole lot of hope out there. The message is to keep your head up, keep your faith and stay strong. We are our brother's keeper."