If the arrival of the new millennium Saturday is accompanied by Y2K havoc because of computer glitches, members of a Genesee County church expect to be prepared for it.
Since last spring, most of the 350 people who attend North Darien Baptist Church have been getting ready for whatever disruptions Y2K might bring. Some have stored enough food, water and fuel to survive for two months or longer should there be massive power disruptions or major shortages.
But as 2000 draws near, church leaders are taking the position, at least publicly, that the potential for serious Y2K malfunctions now appears to be minimal.
"I personally don't believe there will be major, long-term setbacks," said the Rev. Kurt F. Coffed, pastor of the congregation. "No one is building bunkers. We don't have a holocaust mentality that everyone needs to run to a bomb shelter."
Steve Mouw, a member of the church's Y2K Task Force, said, "We wanted to make sure that people were aware of the potential for a problem, and to this day we don't know that everything is going to be smooth. We're hoping that is the case. We have been told that the utilities are prepared. We'll see."
Mouw pointed out that several months ago, when church leaders became concerned about a potential Y2K calamity, government agencies, business consultants and technology experts were warning that problems were so numerous and enormous that it might be impossible to fix all of them before the arrival of 2000.
"Now the concern has been much alleviated," he said.
But eight months ago, when the potential for disaster loomed much larger than it does today, church leaders were afraid that the inability of computers to recognize the date change to 2000 might be "the single biggest blunder the modern world has known."
To make sure everyone was equipped to deal with major problems, the church's Y2K Task Force prepared a kind of survival manual covering such things as food preparation and storage, water purification, backup heating and cooking systems, financial preparation, first aid, communications and home security.
Some church members worked on a community garden project, growing vegetables that have been frozen and stored in freezers connected to electrical generators. Others planted their own gardens.
"People are storing firewood, canned goods, candles, kerosene lamps, making sure they have financial documents in order, drawing closer to God," Coffed said.
Mouw said his family has stored "a week's worth of groceries like you would for a snowstorm" and purchased a generator to operate their sump and well pumps, should there be a power disruption.
"A generator is a good thing to have in this area anyway because there have been electrical problems before," he said.
The church also has acquired a generator and is prepared to serve as a community shelter if people need a warm place to sleep.
An important part of the preparation has been to set aside extra food and supplies to help neighbors who may not be prepared for power problems and shortages, Coffed said.
"If nothing happens, we will be left with great tools for outreach into our church and community. There will always be hungry and needy people," he said. "We are praying that all the problems may be minimal that we may have this opportunity.
While the church's physical preparations for Y2K have attracted attention, he said there has been equal emphasis on spiritual preparation.
"My great concern has been that this whole thing would not take our eyes off of God because he says, 'I will supply all your needs,' " he said. "So many promises in the Bible tell us God will take care of us."
Coffed said the Y2K preparations have refocused the attention of church members from what is not necessary in life to what is necessary and have created a greater awareness that "God is in complete control."
"If we were taking these precautions for general interruptions -- like the power going off or the heat going off -- it would make sense (to others). But if we do it for Y2K, it appears to be hysteria," he observed.
WEDNESDAY: What to do about all those tombstones that read 19--?