One of the functions of Sunday morning worship is to remind ourselves who we belong to and who we serve. We are followers of Christ and his is not always an easy road to travel. We can leave church on Sunday to be more faithful, to be more loving and then watch that resolve be challenged as we enter back into the tug of war of life. That’s why it can be so helpful to gather again on Wednesday, to once again fill up our tanks by engaging with fellow travelers in Bible study. Yes, it’s something on the church calendar, but it’s there for a purpose. Not just because that’s what Baptists do.
At Broadus, we call it Wednesday Evening Fellowship, and it has multiple components. We kick it off with dinner at 5:30 PM. For a number of years, this was a catered meal, but then a dedicated group, the “kitchen crew”, decided to take the responsibility for meal preparation on themselves. Each week through the school year, they prepare a delicious meal to nourish us and allow us to gather around tables in our worship space to enjoy a meal together. This gives us a time to catch up on the week with members of our church family, to get to know them in ways that takes more than sitting together in worship. The Kingdom Kids and middle school group also join in the meal giving everyone a chance to engage with each other, regardless of age.
Around 6:15 PM, dinner concludes and “the kitchen crew” goes into clean-up mode. The Kingdom Kids and middle-schoolers go off to their separate groups, and for the adults, there is a time of prayer and Bible study together. Prayer concerns are shared and updates are given on those for whom we have been praying. This time is followed by adult Bible study, which is not simply another sermon delivered by the pastor mid-week. It’s guided study of a particular book of the Bible or topic that makes space for questions and exchange of thoughts and dialogue. The goal is to dig deep and be able to affirm not only what we believe, but why we believe. Right now, the study is centered on the book of James.
In Acts 2 we read about the early Christ followers, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” The church grew because people observed that these Christians genuinely cared about each other and that their “religion” was more than rituals; it was a way of life. Wednesday Evening Fellowship is a mid-week opportunity to ground ourselves in our faith. It’s not a club, open to a select few or even just open to church members. All are welcome!
On Thursday afternoons, from 1:00-3:00, a group gathers on the top floor of Broadus Memorial Baptist church in the Cornerstone classroom for Art & Soul. These artists - some Broadus members, some not - create not only beautiful artwork in various mediums, but also deep and meaningful relationships with one another. Want to know more about this special group and get involved? Check out our Q&A below with Virginia Thompson who has led and taught Art & Soul since its inception. Call the church office or check the church calendar for more meeting details.
Q&A with Virginia Thompson
When did Art & Soul begin? How did it begin?
Over the years of Camp Young at Heart, participants would always express a wish to continue with the class, were sorry that it was over so quickly, etc. This would also appear in the comments in the written evaluations of CYAH, which of course Margarete Gillette (Broadus Associate Pastor) read. Margarete asked me if I would consider organizing an informal weekly group at Broadus, where people could bring whatever creative projects they were working on. We started our first meeting in September of 2013 and have been going strong ever since. We have a core group of about ten.
What are some different mediums y'all have worked with?
Most of the members are painters; in oil and watercolor. Some occasionally bring a craft to work on, or simply enjoy drawing. Other people have brought knitting, crochet and embroidery. We have worked collaboratively on the paper tile mosaic for the sanctuary, and folding origami doves for last year's Advent installation.
What is your favorite part of Art & Soul? What do participants seem to enjoy most?
My favorite part is the authentic relationships that have grown out of the group. We have a lot of fun, and the conversations can be pretty dynamic. It's an easy place to be yourself, no judgments. Most of our members are "seniors" (whatever that is), and I love to hear their wisdom, stories and humor. I draw energy from their unabated curiosity. As an artist, it is gratifying to see that art is the common thread that binds these wonderful people to each other.
How do participants support each other on Thursday afternoons and beyond?
True concern for each other's well-being is a hallmark of this group. If a regular attendee is missing, inevitably someone has already followed up, or will. We celebrate birthdays, share worries and difficulties, get together for a yearly Christmas celebration, and occasionally take field trips to galleries and museums. Subsets of the group get together socially throughout the year.
Do y'all have space for more people to join?
Always. Bring whatever you are working on, or we can loan you some supplies to get started with painting.
On Wednesday nights we have started offering a time designed specifically for middle school students.
Do you remember your time in those middle grades?
I’m Liz and I’m one of the Middle School leaders, and I remember what it was like. For me, it meant a new school—harder classes, people I didn’t know, a more complicated schedule—and lots of questions.
I remember arriving home in the afternoons, after a long day of learning and athletics and extracurriculars and social pressures and feeling done.
Middle school also marked the time I was invited to join the Wednesday Night Youth Group at my church. Over time, this came to be a space that I explored my faith, made friends, and was offered opportunities to lead.
That was important for me. It was where I began to come out of my shy shell. It gave me conversation partners and the chance for a lot of fun.
I grew up in a pretty big youth group; Wednesday night gatherings could include a couple hundred kids, and to be honest, it was easy to get lost. I got to know some of the adults volunteering their time to teach and supervise us, but I didn’t always feel like they had time for my questions.
To be honest, having grown up in church, I was afraid having questions meant I was doing something wrong. Shouldn’t I have everything figured out?
The answer to that is, of course, no.
I have my middle school self in mind as I arrive at church on Wednesday nights. That’s part of why we (Liz Andrasi Deere, and Hayley and Adam Rose) have designed our time together to give space for questions. We want our middle school students to have a place to unwind where they can connect with adults who care about them and want to know them.
We hope students leave our time together a little more relaxed and a little more encouraged and comfortable with who they are, because we think they are really great.
So far this year our conversations have covered video games, books we love, exploring our town, and what school is like. We splurged on fancy markers, watercolor pencils, piles of gel pens, and fun coloring books to keep our hands busy while we discuss the important things in our lives. Over time, these conversations will change as our friendships deepen and we will add activities throughout the year as we discover what everyone is passionate about. We are excited to keep meeting together and there is room at the table for more to join!
We meet from 6:15-7:00 but it isn’t the only thing we at Broadus do on Wednesday nights…
Volunteers on the kitchen crew serve dinner at 5:30 at round tables in the sanctuary. Students can join us for this time (dinner is $5—but if anyone doesn't have cash and is hungry, we still want them to eat with us!) or they can meet us across the hall at 6:15 where we will be until we finish up by 7:00.
Have middle schoolers AND elementary schoolers? Bring them all! Our Kingdom Kids meet at the same time, and we would love to welcome more friends. Read more about that program here.
Last but certainly not least, our pastor, Nick Deere, leads a Bible study for adults in the sanctuary during this time, as well. So, if you’re bringing a student there’s also something for you. Of course, you don’t have to bring a student to be a part of this Bible study, anyone is welcome.
According to Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan American fact gathering organization, in 2017 27% of Americans described themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” That was up from 19% when they asked that same question in 2012. Their research showed that this increase was true in every age category and every level of education and was evenly split between men and women. Churches across the country are grappling with what that means for them and their future.
At Broadus it’s been no different. We look at decreased attendance and giving and wonder about where we’re going. Members voice, sometimes in Church Council or deacon’s meetings, but more often in whispered conversations, “where will Broadus be in 10 years?” Given what we see going on around us, that’s a legitimate question. And for those of us who love this particular faith community, it’s a scary question.
We decided that it was important as a congregation to try to understand what it means when individuals defines themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” What are they saying about themselves, but more importantly what are they saying about the church as a whole? What do we need to hear and how do we as Broadus need to respond? Where is God’s voice in this conversation and what do we hear Him saying? To help guide our conversations, we suggested that our three adult classes study Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening by Diana Butler Bass. Books were purchased for anyone who wanted to read along, and each week discussion guides were prepared to help readers process and apply what Bass wrote. Group discussions followed each of the three sections allowing participants to hear what individuals in the other classes were saying. We had a plan that we believed to be Spirit directed, but we knew that there was no way to determine the outcome.
On August 25th we finished up our study with a group discussion. For some participants, it was frustrating that Bass did not provide more concrete answers about how to address the place of the church and Christianity in 2019 America. But that was never her purpose. Her purpose was to get us to ask questions of ourselves as she described trends that she observed and set them in the context of church history.
Our last group discussion centered on what we should focus on next. To try to answer the question, “What were the topics discussed, or questions raised, that you would like to further explore?” There were plenty of answers that we’ll have to sort through in the coming weeks. There is an interest in learning more about spiritual practices, things like fixed hour prayer, hospitality, meditation, community…practices that have long been associated with spirituality. There is an interest in considering how Broadus currently defines church membership and exploring changes to that as we seek to live out the truth of the gospel: ”For God so loved the world…” There is an interest in gaining a greater understanding of other world religions and our relationship to them.
Clearly Bass accomplished her purpose. We read, discussed, agreed, disagreed, and allowed the process to help us focus on Broadus and ask God “what’s next?” It will take time, but we will get to each of these topics because God’s Spirit is so clearly moving in our midst. The challenge, as it always is, will be to listen and discern and follow. It’s an exciting time to be part of the Broadus faith community!
At Broadus Memorial Baptist Church we believe we are called to love God and love our neighbors. The stories you read on this blog offer a witness to the ways we respond to God's love and seek to share that love with others.
Scripture describes the church as a body, made up of many parts. Just as your tiniest toe isn't aware of the intricate work your heart or brain do, it can sometimes happen that people in the church body only see what is happening immediately around them. Our hope is that reading these stories will help forge connection and inspire greater love and understanding for one another.
At Broadus we are a community defined by warm-hearted fellowship and thoughtful inquiry. We hope you see evidence of that in the stories we share here. We hope you know, or come to know, that you are a part of God's grand story and that you are welcome to join us, on a Sunday, a Wednesday, or any gathering in between.
The life of faith is a journey, and we are not meant to walk it alone. Our stories connect us and we are excited to share some of ours with you.
If you have a story you'd like to share or would like to connect in some other way you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (434) 977-7381.
Please visit our new YouTube channel to find all of the latest videos of sermons, Bible studies, and ways to stay connected while we are not gathering in-person.