|PIC1|A megachurch in Kentucky is collecting letters of love and support to send to pop singer Britney Spears amid drugs and alcohol problems and a rocky battle with her ex-husband over custody of their two children.
At the request of senior pastor Jon Weece during a sermon, members at Southland Christian Church in Lexington will gather letters bearing messages such as "Britney, Jesus loves you", "The congregation of Southland Christian Church loves you as Jesus loves you", and "We are praying for you", according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.
"Take a few minutes and write a note to Britney Spears," Weece said in a sermon and in a September 19 blog on the church's website. "No preaching. No criticizing. Just love. As a church, let's love Britney the way Jesus loves her."
The pastor of the 8,000-member congregation said that Spears had made "devastating life choices" but encouraged members of the church to offer the same compassion and prayers as they would to those with non-celebrity status.
"If she were your next-door neighbor in the same situation without the money and success, wouldn't you care about her problems? Wouldn't you pray for her and offer her support and encouragement?" he asked members of the church.
Britney Spears was raised as a Southern Baptist in her home state of Mississippi, part of the Bible Belt, and supposedly entered the music scene as a relatively devout Christian.
While her rise to stardom brought her arguably as many problems as it did fame, if not more, some believe she has not entirely lost the faith through it all. Hollywood.tv reported seeing her earlier this year with the word "PUSH" tattooed onto her hand. The acronym, some believe, stands for "Pray Until Something Happens" and is normally printed on necklaces and bands sold at Christian shops.
Spears also wrote a note on her official website in mid-May thanking all her fans for their prayers.
"I am so blessed that you care enough about me to be concerned and will continue to live in this brighter state with all of you by my side during this trying time," said the 25-year-old songstress. "We are all the lights of the world and we all need to continually inspire others and look to the higher power. You are all in my prayers. Godspeed."
While her words were encouraging to concerned observers who hope to see Spears rebound from her fall from grace, the note was written on top of a picture of her posing topless with her arms folded across her chest.
In a more recent message to fans, she closed by saying: "We will never really understand or figure out life completely. That's God's job. I can't wait to meet him ... or her. Love, Britney."
Since Spears' abrupt comeback in recent months, the once-reigning pop princess has garnered more negative publicity for her troubled behavior. Spears has shaved her head, been admitted into rehab for reported problems of drug and alcohol problems, been arrested for a misdemeanor hit-and-run, and earlier this month lost custody of her two boys to ex-husband Kevin Federline.
Cindy Willison, the director of communications for Southland church, said last Friday that the letters from the congregation are still being collected and that church officials were researching the best way to make sure they get directly to Spears.
"This is an opportunity for us to reach out to someone who probably doesn't have a lot of people in her life that care for her as a person," Willison said.
Christian Today reporter Kevin Jackson contributed to this report.
Kentucky megachurch to send 'Jesus Loves You' letters to Britney Spears
Published 30 October 2007 | Elena Garcia, Christian Today US Correspondent