Bell Road Baptist Church lights way to meaning of ChristmasBy: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
Auburn Churches at Christmas
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of Question-and-Answer feature stories that highlight Auburn’s “Churches at Christmas.” Today, the Journal takes a look at Bell Road Baptist Church, whose pastor is Rob Patterson. Other churches will be featured throughout the week.
1. In what ways does your church focus on the birth of Christ?
Since coming to Auburn in 2007, I have led our church in a centuries-old tradition of lighting Advent candles on the four Sundays before Christmas Eve. Each year our Advent emphasis changes but the entire service is geared toward reliving the mystery of expectancy. The world is in need of a savior. The child conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin is to be called 'Jesus' because 'he will save his people from their sin.' He shall be called 'Emmanuel' which means "God with us."
This year our Advent series is entitled "Abraham and the Promise." Our Sunday morning services begin with Bible study for all ages at 9 a.m. and worship service at 10:15 a.m.
2. What are you offering, in terms of traditional and innovative experiences for church-goers at this time of year? What is on your church’s calendar leading up to Christmas, including Christmas Eve and Dec. 23 services?
Early in December, our choir shared “Portraits of Christmas” at Auburn Oaks and Sierra Ridge Memory Care. A DVD of this Christmas program is being given to our Sunday guests and can be seen online at www.bellroad.org.
"A Living Nativity" is set for Joseph, Mary, Baby Jesus, and the shepherds from 6 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 21, 23, and 24. On Saturday, Dec. 22, we will be at the Union Gospel Mission. For 20 years, we have shared God's love with the homeless each month.
On Christmas Eve, we will host a heartwarming candlelight service at 7p.m.
3. How many members does your church have? What is your church address? How long has your church been serving the community?
We are currently an intimate congregation with a regular attendance under 100. Our church address is 707 Bell Road. We are a multi-generational church body. Our choir director, Curt Harjo, is 80 years old. Our worship team leader, Jon Rosenau is 20. Our eldest active member is 95, yet our nursery is fully alive with love and instruction. We have had an ongoing presence in Auburn since the fall of 1947 when 20 people formed Calvary Baptist (which later merged with another group to form First Southern Baptist Church in 1962). Our congregation's name was changed to Bell Road Baptist Church and a new sanctuary was dedicated in 1991.
4. In what ways does your church and its members serve the needy in our community?
We believe that each individual person with whom we come into contact is 'needy' in some way (Up-and-outers, down-and-outers, and every soul in-between). Every member of our church is regularly encouraged to reach out to the people around them with the love of God and the truth revealed in the Bible. Everywhere our Spirit-led members appear in the community (from Sunday to Sunday), the needs of others are being addressed by 'ambassadors of Christ'. The least among us is to be respected and nurtured in the word of God as much as the greatest (regardless of social status, background, or age).
5. The retail side of Christmas seems to be seeping into our lives earlier every year. What are your thoughts on the commercial side of Christmas?
Our early emphasis on the real meaning of Christmas has another desired outcome. Those who choose, like Mary, to 'treasure and ponder these things' in their hearts are much less likely to become ensnared by seasonal depression, personalized anxieties, relational dysfunction, or by the cares and concerns of a commercialized Christmas. Each year from Thanksgiving through the end of the year, our Sunday mornings intentionally point people to the Savior Jesus who says, "Come to me all you are weary and heavy burdened; I will give you rest."