FBC Midfield gives New Beginnings Family Baptist building, fresh startcomment (0)
December 14, 2006
By Sondra Washington
Legacy and being neighborly were the themes Dec. 3 as First Baptist Church, Midfield, held its last service and passed the torch of ministry to New Beginnings Family Baptist Church, Birmingham, a growing black congregation in need of a permanent facility. Both churches are members of Birmingham Baptist Association (BBA).
To continue ministry in the surrounding community, First, Midfield, gave its entire property, worth an estimated $1.8 million, to New Beginnings Family Baptist at no cost.
“Being neighborly is to start with us, not the person next to us,” said Eugene “Gene” Nail, pastor of First, Midfield, which recently celebrated its 54th anniversary. “We want to be good neighbors to New Beginnings Family Church by giving them this property, and we want New Beginnings to be good neighbors to the community — to go out and reach the community for Christ. All of this is possible because God was neighborly to us.”
The transition began a few months ago when leaders of First, Midfield, realized their declining congregation could not grow or be a viable church in the area.
“Our problem was not financial. It was the loss of people,” said Gene Hayes, minister of music and longtime member of First, Midfield. “We faced reality and wanted to close with dignity.”
Hayes contacted John King, BBA team leader for networking and stewardship, who united the two congregations, thinking they would be a good match.
“To God be the glory for the partnership between the African-American churches and the predominantly white churches that have sought to work together in partnership to reach the heart of the city,” King said.
Angulus Wilson, pastor of New Beginnings, said his members are very excited about the new facility. Prior to working with First, Midfield, New Beginnings had either rented meeting facilities or shared buildings with other existing BBA churches including Ridgecrest Baptist, Birmingham, and Carson Road Baptist, Center Point.
Now New Beginnings has its own sanctuary, which seats about 600 people, and an education building with 30 classrooms. The property also includes a smaller church that First, Midfield, used for its youth ministry.
“I am humbled by their gift,” said Wilson, who also serves as associate director of community outreach for the Samford In Mission program of Samford University in Birmingham. “It is a wonderful opportunity for us and a somewhat overwhelming responsibility.”
Wilson’s wife, Sharon, called the donation a miracle and an answer to prayer. “I think it gives us stability, and it allows the church to mature. ... It’s really increased our congregation’s faith in God,” she said.
Hayes noted that First, Midfield, has been missions-minded and evangelistic through the years and this donation is just a projection of the church’s personality and spirit.
“In doing this, our church does not end,” he said. “It continues with different leadership and a different congregation.”
Some members of First, Midfield, said they plan to attend church services with New Beginnings, while others plan to help with various programs and projects.
In the future, the New Beginnings congregation hopes to continue the legacy First, Midfield, left behind — reaching the city and making disciples.
“We have been written into their history, and they have been written into ours,” Wilson said. “We want to evangelize, evangelize, evangelize.”
Nail hopes that churches in similar situations will follow the example of First, Midfield. “Instead of selling the property, give it to another existing congregation,” he said.
In the coming months, Nail and his wife, Emily, plan to move to Texas to be closer to family.
“Sunday (Dec. 3) was the end of my pastoral ministry, and I couldn’t think of a better way to go out,” he said. “It was a great time of fellowship and worship, and it really expressed the unity that exists in the church that runs across color lines.”