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Huntsville-area church meets local child-care needscomment (0)

March 22, 2007

By Jeremy Dale Henderson

In 1999, a Super Wal-Mart and holy providence came together just southwest of Huntsville.

Potholes were filled, a new road was paved and America’s retail giant planted a store a block away from the empty plot of land owned by the fledgling Farley Community Church. The growth of the area was anticipated, but the arrival of Wal-Mart — an event that can bring whole new towns with it — was a pew-packing surprise for Farley’s pastor, David Blakeney.

If there was ever an affirmation for his church’s vision, it was then, according to Blakeney.

Three years prior, the then 48-member congregation met for the first time inside Farley Elementary School. Today, on the heels of Farley’s 10th anniversary, the 500-member church stands as a shrine to strategic evangelism and Christian sincerity.

In the small, but rapidly growing, community of Farley, the Madison Baptist Association church is meeting needs.

Gary Swafford, director of the office of associational missions and church planting for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, called establishing the church’s presence prior to the suburban buildup of new shopping centers and subdivisions key to its success.

"Hundreds of houses are being built in there, but the church was there already," he said. "People are moving in and going, ‘Oh, there’s a church right here in our neighborhood.’"

Blakeney, his pastoral experience then limited only to youth and music ministry, was actually on the survey team that in the mid-1980s deemed the area in need of a church. The group of associational and state Baptist personnel deemed the very land on which Farley now sits as the perfect spot.

Though it took 11 years to plant, "I just felt like I needed to do this," Blakeney said. "I felt like God was saying, ‘Let’s go start this thing.’"

In addition to the area’s church scarcity, part of the urgency felt by Farley’s founders was born out of, as they saw it, the collective community need for quality child care.

Therefore, early on, the church established KidzKare, an after-school/summer outreach program designed to assist children in their physical, educational, social and spiritual growth. Through KidzKare, Farley maintains a vibrant relationship with the elementary school it once called home.

"I’m at the school every Tuesday. I spend the day there reading," said Blakeney, jokingly adding "we call that my off day."

His regular presence at the school is emblematic of the unassuming, instinctive approach that the staff of Farley takes to both church and evangelism, or as Blakeney put it, "meeting people where they are."

"Farley Community Church is doing a great job of reaching their community through being a part of the community and meeting the needs of those in the community," said John Long, director of missions for Madison Association. "Their partnership with Farley Elementary School … and [KidzKare] is also a way they are reaching young families."

In an area easily portrayed as racially and economically diverse, Farley "is open to all people. They truly are a community church," Long said.

Blakeney said that Farley is the only church many of its members have ever belonged to.

Music Minister Mike Hulsey said that’s because Farley has "a very come-as-you-are" atmosphere. "[O]ur worship event is Sunday morning only; everything we do after that is to disciple believers."

Swafford echoed that assessment.

"They have a broad base of leadership and they have a relaxed style, which is more what people coming to church for the first time appreciate, which means they have a future," he said. "I just praise the Lord for what they’re doing. Souls are being saved."

Albert Caire was one of those saved. About nine months after he started attending Farley, Caire was baptized. And he’s wasted no time getting involved in the life of the church.

Caire assists with Royal Ambassadors, and his 7-year-old son, Joshua, is in the KidzKare program. "There’s a great attitude there. You can’t go in and not meet a friend," he said. "At some churches, you’re just a name, not a person, but here it’s like you’re family."

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