If I had the power, I would send Bridgedale Baptist Church of Metairie one new family a month for the next year. I know what would happen: those new members would find themselves gifted with a brand new family of aunts and uncles and grandparents filled with love and ready to teach them in the ways of the Lord.
I worshiped with the folks of Bridgedale Sunday morning at eleven o’clock, and wondered if they are the last of our churches to keep to that traditional hour. Most seem to be meeting at 10:30, some at 10, one at 9:30, and several earlier (Franklin Avenue meets at 7:30 am) or later (Good News and New Vision at 2 pm). Someone told me Celebration’s primary worship service is Saturday night. I love that. Find what works best for you and the people you’re trying to reach, then do it.
The Bridgedale people are the kind I grew up with–about 25 or 30 lovely and saintly veterans of the Christian faith. Richard Dunnam is their pastor and Andy Condrey leads the worship. They have a wonderful location, excellent buildings, and a loving spirit. I wish them new families.
Sunday afternoon at 3 pm, Thomas Glover’s New Covenant Mission held the dedication of their “new” buildings at what was formerly Woodmere Baptist Church, their sponsor. Former pastor Randy Capote drove in from Grand Prairie, Texas, to preach the message. He told us, “A month ago, Pastor Glover and I were on the program of Christ Baptist Church as they dedicated their new facility. I said, ‘I’ll be back in a month for your dedication.’ Jill Glover said, ‘Ours will be longer and louder.'”
It was. It ended at 5 pm. I made a personal commitment that the next time I come to an African-American church service, I’m leaving my watch in the car. But hey, it was a great service. Really.
Pastor Glover–everyone but me calls him Chip–began by telling of the conversation between the hen and the hog. The hen announced she was going to do something she’d never done before–lay an egg on the highway. The hog said, “That’s a dangerous place. My advice to you is lay it on the line and get off quick.” Thomas said, “We have a lot of people on the program this afternoon. I’m asking you to lay it on the line and get off quick.”
He might as well have saved his breath. Everyone on the program–including me–evidently felt our part was the most important. Well, with the possible exception of Freddie Arnold. He had to leave early to drive back to his home in Walker, LA. He’s in a conference all week at Alabama’s Shocco Springs Conference Center. So he was brief.
At-large parish councilmember John Young, who always looks like he just stepped out of GQ magazine, told how important this church is to this community. He said it again and again and again.
Jerry Hamby is the associate pastor of sponsoring Christ Baptist Church. In presenting him, Thomas praised the wonderful relationship New Covenant enjoyed all these years with Woodmere Church. “We’ve been here 8 years,” he said, “and never once have they asked me for rent.” I gathered that this means the sponsor did not charge them rent. Which is how it ought to be, if anyone asks me.
Jerry gave a brief history of the way his facility came to belong to New Covenant. Both he and Thomas credit me with suggesting that the mother church “gift” the property to New Covenant, but I have little memory of that. At any rate, it was a win-win situation for both churches.
What I may have told them was what happened at our home church years ago, Birmingham’s West End Baptist Church. I was baptized and called to preach and ordained there; Margaret and I met and were married there; it’s a precious place. In the 1960s as the church began to decline in numbers, for inexplicable reasons the church refused to welcome its new neighbors of other races. So it died. And when the leaders decided to shut the doors, they found a buyer among the African-American community and sold it for a nice price which they then put into various mission funds. What I did not understand and do not to this day was why didn’t they just give it to that new congregation? What was the point in selling it? After all, it was the Lord’s church and both congregations were the Lord’s people. What matter was it who was using it at the moment?
A chief in the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office spoke about Thomas Glover’s leadership in this part of the community. The sheriff has a program called “Cops and Clergy,” instituted in the Black community to try to stem the violence. Thomas has attended every meeting and is a prime example of what they’re trying to achieve.
As if to bear this out, Mrs. Gretchen Williams, the principal of the nearby Woodmere Elementary School, lauded Thomas and Jill Glover and their people for tutoring students and helping in a hundred ways.
Todd Hallman from the FBC of Luling told how his church was the first sponsor of New Covenant and brought well wishes from his church and a nice check for the offering. Several other ministers and friends brought special checks for today’s offering.
Randy Capote brought the main message and gave his version of his first meeting with Chip some ten years ago at a pastors conference. Asked to exchange their written prayer requests, Randy ended up with Chip’s. A God-thing, as we say, because the request was for God’s blessings on his new church in Woodmere. Randy said, “I pastor in Woodmere. I know all the churches. I don’t know about yours.” Thomas said, “Well, that’s because mine is meeting in my boat garage.” He didn’t have a boat.
That began their prayer partnership, a weekly gathering every Monday for the next several years. Randy said, “Our church donated an air conditioning unit to your boat garage.” He smiled, “That was like the engagement ring in our relationship.”
Randy teased us by threatening to take his time on this message. “I don’t take advice from a hog,” he said to laughter.
His text was Luke 1:37, “Nothing shall be impossible for God.” He said, “When God deposits a God-idea in a servant’s soul, He will make a way.” The problem, he said, is we have to learn to tell the difference in a God idea and a good idea.
Bethany Hales was introduced as New Covenant’s newest staff member. As a student at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a partner in a new program we’re doing called Unlimited Partnerships, Bethany is signing on for a one or two year commitment to help New Covenant build a program of Sunday School and discipleship. Her salary will be paid by an outstanding (and large) Southern Baptist church in another state. She and the other half-dozen students in the program are part of a pilot project with seven of our local Baptist churches, all this being the brain child of Dr. Bill Taylor, the pre-eminent educational leader of our denomination. Bill is in and out of New Orleans all the time, setting up the details of this innovative ministry.
Driving down Alex Kornman Street on the way to this church, one is struck by the hundreds of apartments lining both sides of the street, and children everywhere. If ever a church had a great location, New Covenant is the one.
Harold Mosley, the pastor of Christ Baptist Church–the former Woodmere Baptist Church; got that now?–told how their “new” church at 3000 Manhattan is enjoying significant blessings. “We had two more additions this morning.” A church member said, “Yes, and we’ve baptized three times since Harold has been here. That’s probably more than we baptized in the last three years.”
Oh, one more thing. They flashed on the screen a key verse of Scripture. It looked like this: “Say to ArCHIPpus, take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfil it.” Colossians 4:17
Thomas said, “When we were evacuated (after the hurricane) in Houston, I didn’t know if we were going to be able to get back here or not. I didn’t know whether we were going to have a ministry here. I was reading the word and that verse jumped out at me. You know that my nickname is Chip. And there it was: ‘Say to ArCHIPpus’–my name was in it. God was telling me I still had a ministry here.”
And so he does. And we’re all the better for it.
Thomas told the crowd why the church is using stackable chairs instead of pews. “When people come to help us reach into this neighborhood, we stack these chairs out of the way and put down air mattresses. We’re witnessing to our community and helping to build new houses in the Upper 9th Ward.”
Fulfilling his ministry.