Snowtown Baptist Pastor Smith creates outreach ministry to unite communitycomment (0)
March 20, 2014
By Julie Payne
On the first Tuesday of each month at Snowtown Baptist Church, Dora, you better plan to get there early to get a good parking spot.
When Pastor Dennis Smith opens the church doors on that particular morning, a community outreach known as Community Coffee Club takes over, filling the hallways with laughter, conversation and fellowship among neighbors.
It all started when after becoming the pastor of the small Mud Creek Baptist Association church almost six years ago, Smith was inspired to unite the several denominations in the area that weren’t associating with one another.
Several community outreaches ensued — a combination Thanksgiving/Christmas feast, a Valentine’s Day banquet and a successful horse whisperer event in late 2012 that drew a staggering crowd reaching between 2,000 and 3,000 people.
This idea of uniting the community was then further implemented when someone suggested to Smith the concept of a coffee club. It wasn’t long before Community Coffee Club formed with the help of Smith and some of Snowtown Baptist’s members, and this April will mark its first anniversary.
“We realized that people in our community, although they had lived together all of their life, just didn’t know each other,” Smith explained. “So in the process of creating [Community Coffee Club], we found that people who lived down the street from each other now know each other and they’re now fellowshipping with each other and it ... makes no difference what religion they are or what church they go to ... they come here knowing they can gather together in good fellowship for a good clean time.”
Both the church’s name and name of the community were purposefully left out of the club’s name because the group’s aim is to be all-inclusive. “We don’t want to eliminate anyone,” Smith said.
Community Coffee Club includes a 10-minute devotional, a program with special entertainment — future plans include bringing in an Elvis impersonator — and a meal. And true to its name, there is never a shortage of hot coffee to enjoy.
Most participants are members of Snowtown or other area churches. But people don’t have to be a member of a church at all to attend, Smith said, noting the full point of the club “is to fellowship.”
Barbara Spears, a member of Hillview Baptist Church, Birmingham, who helps with the club’s programs and attendance record, agreed. “It’s getting to know your neighbors,” she said of its purpose. “This is one time a month we can get together and get to know each other.”
At the March event, which took place March 4 at 10:30 a.m., Smith welcomed the more than 30 people in attendance, telling them there are no boundaries and no walls. “We come together this morning in Christian fellowship, praising the Lord,” he said. Participants were then led in an opening song, which is a tradition in Community Coffee Club.
After a volunteer-led devotional, Mike Dyer, a member of Calcedonia Baptist Church, Gardendale, provided the day’s entertainment. He sang several gospel songs while participants tapped their feet, clapped and even sang along with him to some of the familiar tunes.
The celebratory feeling continued even to the conclusion of the event when Smith recognized several participants with recent birthdays and asked them to come to the front of the room so the group could sing “Happy Birthday.” And after the closing prayer, everyone was invited to enjoy further fellowship over lunch.
Smith said Community Coffee Club began with 15 people, and since its inception he has collected more than 100 names of people who have attended at one time or another. Some months close to 50 people will attend, Smith said. “Every month has been absolutely great,” he added.
In fact, the group has grown to the point that they have considered moving it to a larger location, but there’s no intention of moving at this time, Smith noted.
“I feel we’d lose a certain element if we do that; the intimacy of being together in this smaller area really adds to what we’re trying to accomplish, and what we’re trying to accomplish is: ‘Let the walls drop,’” he said.
“We don’t want to worry” with what denomination people are, he added. “When we come in here it’s Jesus Christ, and that’s it.”