The prospect of seeing many of his former “family” members has Leonard Smith excited.
Smith and the Star of Bethlehem Baptist Church have invited former members and ministers to come back — if only for a day of worship, reminiscing, food and fun.
The combination 105th-year church anniversary and reunion event is set for 3 p.m. Nov. 9 at the church, 1204 St. Joseph St., Baton Rouge. The theme is “We’ve Come This Far by Faith.”
“Really, that’s been the main thing for me, is reaching out to the former members who left the church ... It’s like a reunion,” said Smith, a musician and chairman of the church anniversary committee. “I’m real excited about that.”
He’s not alone.
“I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback from the former members and the members who are here now,” he said. “Everybody’s been wonderful. Everybody’s been excited. Everybody’s been getting onboard.”
The speaker for the service will be the Rev. Ricky Carter, of Good Hope Baptist Church in Lafayette.
“He’s a dynamic speaker,” Smith said of Carter. “He’s an anointed speaker. He’s a fiery man of God. I think everybody will thoroughly enjoy him.”
As part of the celebration, Smith said a reunion choir made up of current and former choir members will be among the performers.
Smith, 37, has been a musician at Star of Bethlehem since 2001. It is among the many churches where Smith has played as a musician. But it’s the first church he’s joined as a member since leaving his childhood church.
“They’re loving people,” he said. “They’re a great congregation. We have our ups and downs like any family, but at the same time we’re family. And they have been with me through thick and thin. And the times that I’ve needed them, they have proven faithful. I love them … I do believe God is going to bless this church.”
Smith said the church, under the leadership of the Rev. Henry J. Brown, thrives to be a blessing to others.
“Our main purpose is to win souls and serve God,” said Smith, who also is a musician at First Emmanuel Baptist Church in Baton Rouge and Second Baptist Church in Plaquemine.
As for the former members, Smith said the church wants to be inviting to them, as well.
“We definitely want a new, fresh anointing and a new fellowship to encourage them … to come back and visit,” he said.
Together BR choir
One rehearsal down and maybe six more to go for the special Mass Community Choir of Together Baton Rouge.
The choir, made up of singers from denominations from throughout the community, is preparing for what organizers said is a one-time performance at 6 p.m. Dec. 9 at the Together Baton Rouge Gala at Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church, 9700 Scenic Highway.
“It was exhilarating,” René Singleton, one of the choir’s organizers, said of the first rehearsal Oct. 26 at Mount Pilgrim. “There’s something powerful about music. Music creates community (and) creates strong bonds. … It’s just a wonderful thing to do, particularly any kind of sacred music. But music-making in general has a positive effect.”
The next rehearsal is set for 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Greater Mount Carmel Baptist Church, 1414 Sora St., Baton Rouge.
Everrett Parker is leading the choir.
“I see this as a powerful opportunity for our community, both to harness the power of music as a vehicle of praise and an inspiration to the heart, and as an important way to build fellowship and solidarity at a time when our community has a desperate need for it,” Parker said.
Parker is the former longtime director of the gospel choirs at LSU.
“He is an esteemed musician. He is an absolutely fabulous musician and composer,” Singleton said.
The gala is the first for Together Baton Rouge, the faith-based advocacy group.
“The gala is about celebrating what Together Baton Rouge has done,” said Singleton, a member of St. James Episcopal Church. “It’s our year-end celebration, looking ahead to the future and creating strong community.”
Singleton is hopeful of a choir of more than 100 members. The rest of the rehearsal schedule is as follows:
2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 9, Greater Mount Carmel
2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 16, Greater Mount Carmel
2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 23, Greater Mount Carmel (rehearsal contingent upon musical necessity)
6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 6, Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church
6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 8, Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church.
‘We need prayer’
Prayer was a major part of the second annual Greater Louisiana Baptist Convention Women’s Auxiliary Conference recently at Second Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.
Many prayers were said and the subject of prayer was much discussed at the two-day conference that drew about 300 women from across Louisiana.
“Sometimes we don’t realize how much we need to pray,” said Doretha Johnson, of New Hope Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, who served as the co-chairwoman of the conference. “We need to pray constantly in season and out of season because the devil is trying to come at us from all sides. And if you’re not prayed up, you’re in for it.”
Break-out sessions were “His Joy in Strength: Are You Spiritually Fit? Let’s Take Inventory” and “The Power of Prayer: Do You Text, Tweet or Travail in Prayer?”
Gloria Crayton is president of the Greater Louisiana Baptist Convention Women’s Auxiliary.
“It’s such a great experience — the inspiration, the fellowship, the studies that the women get a chance to participate in,” said Crayton, a member of Mount Bethel Baptist Church in Lafayette. “It’s all for the edification of the women. They’ll go back with a double determination to do even more in their various churches.”
Among the speakers for the conference were Tawana Thomas-Johnson, of Maryland, and Janet D. Jamieson, of Chicago.
Thomas-Johnson served as the first-night speaker and represented the American Cancer Society. She spoke on the topic of cancer, which sometimes got emotional, even for Johnson.
“I have a daughter that has lung cancer surgery. She’s doing great. God has blessed us,” said Johnson, adding that her son-in-law has battled brain cancer. “God has been so good to me, I have to give him my best.”
Johnson said that’s the approach she took in helping lead the conference. She was co-chairwoman with Debra Jackson Martin, of Baton Rouge.
“It’s been a lot of work but I’ve enjoyed it. … I’m the type of person when I’m asked to do a job, I want to do a good job,” Johnson said. “When you’re doing something for the Lord, you want to do your best. They trusted me to do this job, and I gave it my all.”
In addition to the conference, Crayton said the women’s auxiliary is involved in various mission and outreach projects throughout the year, including disaster relief and helping victims of domestic abuse and the homeless.
“We just want to be a blessing to people who might find themselves in an unfortunate situation,” she said. “It’s a working ministry.”
The Greater Louisiana Baptist Convention is 4 years old. The Rev. Leo D. Cyrus, of New Hope and Second Baptist, was elected as the group’s second president in July.
Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Terry Robinson can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.