Broadway Christian Church will celebrate its 50th year in Columbia on Sunday. Former members and others who have been involved with the congregation have been invited to the special service.
A DVD showing highlights of the church's growth, along with interviews of current and former members, is part of the celebration. A brunch will be served at 8:30 a.m., and instead of the three separate services there will be one longer celebration at 10:30 a.m.
George Garner, a charter member who has been attending since Broadway Christian opened exactly 50 years ago to the day — Oct. 5, 1958 — reflected on some of the changes he has seen. Garner has watched the church grow from a founding congregation of 102 to a membership of around 1,300. He remembers the days of the Civil Rights movement, and the decision that Broadway would be an open church, welcoming to all people.
"When we started we were in folding chairs," he said. "And when we were done we would just move them around for the next thing. Now we have a dedicated sanctuary, a dedicated family life area, a dedicated youth space."
He said he hopes that, after everything else, those who attend the service Sunday "can appreciate what we've been through and where we came from."
What Broadway Christian Church has been through seems only to have strengthened it. It went from a project "birthed in love" by a small group of people from First Christian Church downtown to the 28th-largest Disciple of Christ church in the U.S. and the third-largest in Missouri. The church now has more than 200 outside groups from the community who use the building, and have multiplied its own ministries, including:
• Stephen Ministry, a program that started in 2002 to offer mentoring relationships for those new to or struggling in their faith.
• Angel Food Ministry, a national nonprofit organization that makes packages of $60 worth of food available for $30 for anyone interested in the service.
• Small Group Ministries, about 25 small groups of church members meet regularly to focus on different topics such as how to read the Bible, how to pray and book discussions. This ministry began 11 years ago.
Many of the developments Broadway Christian has seen have occurred throughout the time that Rick Frost has been minister. He has been the senior pastor for nearly half the church's existence, but retired earlier this month. Brent Ghan, chairman of the board at the church, recognizes the uniqueness of this moment in time for the members.
"There's a sort of symmetry," he said of the weekend. "It's a great time to look back and also to look to the future, to what's ahead for the church."
What is ahead for the church? Growth, the members hope, and that doesn't seem too far-fetched. Seventy people have joined the church since April 2007, when Frost announced his retirement.