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Serving Beyond the Church Walls: Bethany First Church of the Nazarene

By Pamela Sosnowski

"There's a place for you at Bethany First Church of the Nazarene," declares the congregation's website, and, judging from the many ministries and programs the church offers to the local communities, that statement applies even to those who aren't regular churchgoers.

Bethany First Church of the Nazarene (BFC) was formed in 1909, and over the course of more than a century has slowly added on buildings and programs that serve its surrounding neighborhoods and beyond. A youth center, now known as BFC's Fred Floyd Center, was built in 1945, two blocks west of the church. In 1957, another youth activity building was erected. In 1969, a sanctuary that seats 2,500 opened.

The congregation is particularly proud of the assistance it has provided to latchkey children in the community, who must come home to an empty house after school because their parents are still at work. In 2000, it launched a free after-school program for children attending kindergarten through the 8th grade that continues to operate 3 to 6 PM, five days per week.

Explains Communications Pastor Bob Miller, "The after school program provides a safe, loving environment for students to play, do homework, receive tutoring, and play sports. Local law enforcement has stated that this program was instrumental in reducing area crime by giving students in the community a supervised place to go after school." Participating students are picked up at school, and taken directly to the youth center, so they never have to walk alone to the building, or worry about securing a safe ride.

The church offers ministries for children and adults at all stages of their life that not only help them explore a deeper relationship with their Christian faith, but encourage them to have fun while doing so. BFC's College Life ministry, for example, offers an Open Gym night where participants enjoy all of the fitness equipment available in the Family Life Center, as well as a game room. The church's Senior Adult ministry recently enjoyed a day-trip to Express Ranch in Yukon, a local cattle farm.

Every year the BFC hosts a Thanksgiving community dinner, feeding over 900 people, including those who may not have had a welcoming place to travel to on the holiday and enjoy a meal.

At the core of the church are its weekly services - offered two times on Sundays - that remind attendees about the power of faith and the strength of community support. "We see time and again the wisdom and necessity of being a part of a loving, caring community," says Miller. "We don't know when tragedy is going to strike. At some point all of us reach a point where we need support from others. We believe there is a kingdom that will outlast this world. The church should be living, demonstrating, and teaching the characteristics of that kingdom."

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