Broadway and Northside join forces
On Sunday, April 26, a journey of faith and ministry of 84 years concluded in a joyous service of worship, uniting the Northside and Broadway United Methodist Churches as one new congregation.
In 1925, a Broadway Sunday school class began an outpost Sunday school. That venture of faith quickly grew into a flourishing congregation called Northside.
In the intervening years, both congregations provided important ministry and witness, touching the lives of untold numbers of people and the community of Paducah. That separate journey ended when both congregations voted on April 19, 2009 to merge and become one fellowship.
Over the past year, the active members of Northside had discussed the future of the church in the face of a changing neighborhood, dwindling membership, and increased strain on resources.
In 2002, in an attempt to minister more effectively to the neighborhood around the church facility, Northside took a tremendous step of faith by seeking the appointment of the Rev. Joe Beal to be the first pastor of color at Northside.
A wonderful journey in faith
As Joe Beal said, “Northside answered the call of God to demonstrate and example what true commitment to our itinerate system means. Northside answered that call, and what a wonderful journey in faith this has been!”
Despite some wonderful accomplishments and a powerful witness to the larger community, Northside found it impossible to grow in numbers and in mission in the face of the dramatic changes and challenges it faced.
Early this year, with the same courage and faithfulness that led Northside to a cross-racial appointment, the active members of the congregation decided it could best serve God by closing its doors and adding its resources to the ministries of other churches.
A poll of active members showed that a majority thought positively of joining forces with Broadway UMC, the mother church of Northside.
Dr. Rick Dye, Paducah District Superintendent, approached Broadway about the possibility of merger with Northside and also of bringing the Rev. Beal onto the pastoral staff at Broadway.
In only a month, the union moved from a possibility to a reality, due to the enthusiastic response of both congregations and thanks to the help of Dr. Dye, Bishop Dick Wills, the Memphis Conference cabinet, and the Conference Commission on Equitable Compensation.
Beal to join Broadway staff
Dr. David Comperry, Broadway’s pastor, told Broadway’s Church Conference, “Merger with Northside and having Joe Beal join us in ministry would not be possible apart from our connectional relationship. Our connection is not just a structure; it is a means of sharing ministry and resources with each other in faithful stewardship of God’s gifts and faithful response to God’s calling. This is God’s gift to us through our Methodist connection and through the courageous and faithful stewardship of the members of Northside.”
Homecoming to the future
The service of merger was truly a coming together of two churches to be one.
The theme of the morning was “Homecoming to the Future!”
The Lay Leaders of both churches read scripture. Beal and Comperry spoke of the past, the future, and of God’s vision for the merged congregation. Joe’s son, Chris, played a piano duet with Broadway’s organist, Nancy Ryan.
At the conclusion of the service, Rick Dye led the members of both congregations, who were mingled with one another, in a reaffirmation of membership vows, creating a brand new Broadway United Methodist Church.
As Rev. Beal expressed it, “In 1925, for twelve committed Christians at Broadway, being faithful to God’s call meant leaving Broadway and going to start a new ministry, Northside. In 2009, being faithful to God’s call meant that those at Northside would leave Northside and come to Broadway. Today we have answered that call. Today we are no longer Northside; we are Broadway! And we are glad! We look forward with excitement to this united ministry and to what God has in store.”
The excitement and joy of the morning continued with a congregational luncheon in Igert Hall that was provided by a Broadway member.
The name tags and the laughter and warmth of the fellowship testified to the fact that the unity was real, the joy was real, the hospitality was radical, and the Holy Spirit was active. It was fun, it was exciting, and it was Spirit-filled!
At the beginning of the service of unity, the pulpit Bible of Northside was placed on the sanctuary altar of Broadway as a sign of unity. At that moment, a new beginning was made and a true homecoming happened, a Homecoming to a Great Future! •