Young brides dreamt of
walking down the aisle in fairytale fashion to marry their
“Prince” surrounded by family and friends.
This is the Braden many
Toledoans know and love. That Braden is now called “Old
Braden” since it has been relocated to a new space within
the last decade after mounting repairs were needed in the
“New Braden” has now been
a resident of the Reynolds Corner area since 2009 and sits
next door to the Inverness Club where an annual Independence
Day celebration is held, as the church hosts a community
picnic complete with food and games.
Through the years, Braden
has seen many changes, having had two previous locations in
Toledo as well as several pastors who have served the
congregation, the church is now entering a new season.
Welcoming new pastor, Rev.
Cecil J. Fitzgerald Thompson and his wife, Kim one year ago,
was a new beginning for Braden, as it is common in the
United Methodist Church to transfer pastors to new
congregations to take them to their next spiritual
Rev. Thompson came to
Toledo from Columbus, Ohio and is a vision-leader with a
heart for the people of God and bridging the gap between
church and community. He is purposed to equip people for
service to fulfill the great commission of sharing the love
and light of Christ beyond the walls of the church. His
focus is on faith-building by the word of God and elevating
the worship experience to develop a deeper connection in
fellowship with Christ and one another.
This vision is forging a
new direction for members of Braden and the local community.
Homecoming, (what is considered at Braden’s Anniversary) is
Sunday, October 13 at 10:30 AM, with Sis. Kathy Haynes
Moore, wife of Braden’s former pastor, Roland Moore, as the
This year’s Homecoming
theme is “Welcome Home” in conjunction with Pastor
Thompson’s vision to give an “extraordinary welcome” to
anyone who visits or returns to the church. He realizes that
there are many factors that keep people from attending
church on a regular basis – from work schedules to
children’s athletic obligations and even unresolved conflict
within themselves or someone else – the latter being a major
barrier today for many latent church goers.
This new season is not
just autumn, but it’s Homecoming Season for middle, high
school and colleges around the country. It is a season of
celebration, community engagement and even fundraising.
Braden is now in the midst of their 2019 Homecoming Season,
opening it with a Friends & Family (dress down) Day followed
by a Tailgate fellowship.
The season continued with
“Spirit Week”, a week-long set of activities that included
Crafternoon, a two-hour workshop where mesh wreaths,
upcycled purses and body scrubs were made. There were two
“picture days” where members were photographed for a new
member directory and a Friday Night Line dance where the
most popular “hustles” were taught.
The week ended with Spirit
Sunday, a pep rally of sorts, where the service was filled
with praise and worship, a powerful message and music by
guest Psalmist Whitney Jones. Members wore Homecoming
t-shirts and even took their first congregation “selfie”. It
is little things like the selfie that sparked the interest
of youth and young adults who often decrease their
attendance due to school and work obligations.
Learning how to reach
people where they are is different today than it was for
church 20 years ago. There are a number of ways in which
churches now measure engagement, and they include the
digital age of outreach.
The church has launched an
online newsletter, live streaming of weekly sermons from
their Facebook page, a new youtube channel and has increased
their utilization of social media such as Twitter and
Instagram. These tools become vehicles to let people know
about events happening at the church as well as sending
messages of love and hope to those who seek it.
In addition to Spirit Week
at Braden, the congregation held their first Total Wellness
Health Fair, sponsored by Costco, Sam’s Club and a number of
Community Health Partners. The health fair served members of
the community providing screenings for glucose (blood
sugar), weight management/diabetes education, stroke and
skin cancer screenings.
The Toledo Fire Department
supported the event by bringing an engine and sharing fire
and emergency safety tips and there were approximately 25
volunteers. Also, they have rolled out faith and
fellowship-building classes as well as preparing for their
annual Fall Extravaganza, a prayer breakfast presented by
the United Methodist Women.
When looking ahead at
Braden, this Homecoming season has set forth several
activities that may continue throughout the year, giving
members and people of the community a safe and welcoming
place to have fun, share love and grow in knowledge and
faith. These efforts are embedded in the life of Braden, as
they have always been a church of innovative engagement,
having a number of local and professional leaders who offer
their expertise and experience to create programming that
serves others in a meaningful way.
Braden’s Fall Extravaganza
will be held Saturday, September 28th at 9:30 AM and tickets
are $15 in advance. Guest speakers will be praying over
specific topics that concern us today, then share a catered
brunch by Club 300, owned and operated by Helen Cooks, PhD,
a long-time Braden member and founder of Toledo Excel.
The month of September
will close with a Youth & Young Adult Alumni Sunday on
September 29 at 10:30 AM. All current and former Braden
youth who were members or participated in community events
like VBS, TEYC, Toledo Excel and other activities are
encouraged to come back and celebrate with the congregation
as the anniversary date approaches.
Alumni Sunday will feature
guest Christian Hip Hop Artist Eternal F.I.Y.A.H, singers
from Hawkins Elementary School under the direction of Dianne
Stubblefield-Moore and speaker Sydney Gregory. There will be
special honors and recognition of some retired leaders as
well as testimonies from youth.
Braden is The West Ohio
Conference of the United Methodist Church’s only
African-American congregation and the only one that is home
to three retired pastors, two of them former Braden pastors,
as members including Roylene Reed (wife of Rev. Albert L.
Reed), Rev. and Mrs. William C. Davis, Sr., Rev. Roland and
Kathy Moore. As well as the Rev. Josephine Whitley-Fields,
retired UMC pastor and life-long Braden member.
Braden is also a part of
the local Methodist Ministers Affiliation including Warren
AME, St. Paul’s AME and Phillips Temple CME, churches which
connect through worship and outreach ministry year-round.
This series of Homecoming events and activities is a
culmination of all that Braden was and still is today. It
may look different to some, but it is still faith, love and
hope in action.
There is a long history of this church’s doors opening to
the community with open hearts and minds, welcoming people
into the unconditional love and embrace of Christ, and the
doors are still open. To learn more about Braden, follow
them @BradenUMC on social media, or contact the church at
419-386-2700 or via email.