On the Sunday morning before Ash Wednesday, Pastor Nick invited the people of Broadus to join him outside after the service. As they gathered near the Peace Pole, he explained why we observe Ash Wednesday as he laid palm fronds from last year's Palm Sunday celebration into a fire pit. He then burned them down to ashes.
On Wednesday night, the people of Broadus and friends will gather again in the room across the hall from the sanctuary and observe Ash Wednesday together, ending the service with Pastor Nick marking their foreheads with a cross made of the palm frond ashes. As he does so, he will utter the words: "You are from dust, and to dust you will return."
This is one of the more somber days in the church calendar as it marks the beginning of a traditional season of fasting--Lent. As Baptists, many of us have not observed Lent before, and each year we do so is an opportunity to understand more deeply what this season means and how it can help prepare us for the crucifixion and resurrection we will celebrate at the end of these 40 days.
In this week's Pastor's Corner in The Beacon, Pastor Nick explained a bit about Lent and how we might participate. Here is an edited excerpt:
"Ash Wednesday is the traditional start in the Christian calendar for Lent. Lent is the time of year that we prepare ourselves for Easter. We in the church hope to take time to focus on God. There are many ways to do this. For example, this is a season of confession and repentance; a time to see where we have lost sight of God in our lives and recommit to the right path. Lent is also a season of fasting. In fasting, we give up something for a set time to allow for, and remind us, to spend more time with God. Finally, some see this as a season to take on a new holy habit; to pick up something in their lives that draws them closer to God. If you are like me, you might not have grown up with Lent being a part of your church life. Celebrating Lent is not essential to Christian faith, but as with every tradition we inherit, it is simply a practice that those before us have found helpful."
You are invited to join us for the Ash Wednesday service this Wednesday evening after our fellowship meal. The service will start around 6:15. It will be a time for reflection and considering what it means to be a people of the cross as we walk with Jesus through this Lenten season toward the celebration of the resurrection on Easter morning.
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!
When we talk about Broadus, we frequently refer to ourselves as a “church family.” What does that mean? We all have families into which we were born or adopted. Those families help us, in part, define and understand who we are. A church family is different because we choose to become part of it.
As a child or teen being brought to church with our parents, we may not have a choice, but eventually everyone has a choice whether to be part of a church family and, if so, which one to join. When they function well, our families, whichever one we’re talking about, become places of safety, places where we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we will find love, support, and encouragement as we navigate our way through life.
We have a Wednesday evening meals many weeks of the year, but a few of them are called Family Nights because we want to encourage our church family to make room in their schedules for these meals. Much as the Thanksgiving meals that we will celebrate next week do, they provide opportunities to celebrate that we belong together. They affirm our bonds to one another.
In recent years, the program for our Thanksgiving Family Nights has been the Senior Singers performing their musical. This group of musicians has been part of Broadus since we first existed as a church. The members have changed over the years, and they are fewer in number now than they were twenty years ago, but their twofold ministry has remained the same. They sing hymns in area care facilities, primarily memory care units, on the second Tuesday of each month, and they present a musical in area churches and independent living communities.
This ministry impacts our community in a variety of ways. Music is buried deep in our brains, and often a person who is for the most part non-verbal can still sing a hymn when they are unable to enter into a conversation. Whether they’re singing hymns or their musical, the Senior Singers are bearing witness to a faith that sustains them as they grow older. And they model to their audience one of the aspects of healthy aging: staying engaged.
You do not need to attend Broadus to join the Senior Singers. In fact, most of the group today is comprised of non-Broadus members. What you do need is a love of singing and a desire to share your voice to encourage, inspire, and entertain others. If you want more information on this group, please call our church office at 977-7381, and we’ll get you connected.
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.
There was a time in our history that we had three nurseries full of babies and preschoolers. There was a time when we took twenty plus youth to summer conferences. There’s no way of knowing exactly what the future holds, but that’s not where we are right now. Does that mean children and youth have no place at Broadus? Absolutely not. Our ministry to children focuses on Kingdom Kids, a mid-week program that we’ve offered for about fifteen years. It’s a program for children in grades K-5th, but occasionally we’ve slipped a four-year old in there with their older sibling. Kingdom Kids includes children whose families regularly attend Broadus, but also children who live in Wilton Farm, a neighborhood just a half-mile away. They are our neighbors, and we look for ways throughout the year to welcome them into our church family.
Wednesday evenings, Mr. Mike and Ms. Nancy take the bus to Wilton Farm to pick up children who are eager to come to Broadus. They’re happy to come not just because of the meal that is being prepared for them by Mr. Dan and his kitchen crew, but because they are going to be welcomed by people who are truly happy to see them. After dinner, they have a time of learning and worshipping together. They’re on a four-year curriculum rotation: Journey with Jesus – the life of Jesus, Rock-Solid Followers – the early church and Paul, Fruits of the Spirit, and Parable Quest – the parables of Jesus. They hear stories, sing, complete activities, and do crafts that relate to the topic of the night. From the beginning the goal has been to help these children understand that God loves them and that He wants them to love Him, love their neighbors, and love themselves. We want them to understand what that looks like so we make sure that the children treat each other and their leaders respectfully.
A number of years ago, the then principal of Stony Point Elementary School emailed me to ask at what time we were having our children’s Christmas pageant. She wanted to come because she had been in the cafeteria that day and overheard some of her students talking about being wise men and shepherds and angels. When she asked about it, they told her all about what they were doing at Kingdom Kids that night. What happens here on Wednesday evenings goes home and goes to school with our children. It doesn’t matter if we have twenty kids in our program or five, what we’re doing matters in their lives. That’s why we’re here. To make a difference for Christ.
Kingdom Kids might be the centerpiece of our children’s program, but we see “our” kids at lots of other times. Movie nights, Trunk or Treat, Children’s Easter Celebration, special outings, Hearts and Hands (our Vacation Bible School alternative), and Back-to-School Night. Over the years, we’ve developed relationships with their families and are able to welcome them to activities as well. Some of the families have joined us in worship on Sunday too, but that was never the goal of this ministry. It’s not about getting people to “join” the church. It’s about being the presence of Christ to our neighbors and about helping to usher in His kingdom on earth. When our Kingdom Kids sing their songs for us (frequently accompanied by lots of motion), when they tell us what they’ve learned in the year, when they pack shoeboxes for children who are in need, and make Valentine’s for our homebound members, we know that we are doing exactly what God wants us to do in this time and in this place. We’re taking care of the children He has placed in our care.
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.