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Braden United Methodist Church Celebrates 111 Years In Service to the Local Community

By Megan Davis
The Truth Contributor

You may have seen the stately brick structure anchored with monumental white pillars at the top of a grand staircase. On its side, along a portion of I-75, it bears the name in bold letters “Braden United Methodist Church.”

The church, which sat at the corner of Lawrence and Woodruff, was in the center of the city, surrounded by families young and old, with varying professions and diverse in age. In its prime, youth filled this space, roaming through the halls, up and down the stairways-in and throughout the classrooms for any number of activities including Vacation Bible School, The Toledo Ecumenical Youth Council, or even the youth choir.

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 building.

“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 destination.

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 speaker.

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.


Copyright © 2019 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 09/26/19 14:27:58 -0400.



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