God’s Beacon Light in the Community
Written by Betty Miller Buttram
Pastor Thayer L. Williamson was born and raised in Gary, Indiana. He was a devoted member of Peter’s Rock Baptist Church in that city. He drove the Pastor of that church to Fort Wayne, Indiana for a convention, and there he met his wife, who is from this City of Churches. Pastor Williamson has been in Fort Wayne for approximately fifteen years and has been the Shepherd of Community Baptist Church for six years.
The church’s beginnings started on McCullough Street about 75 years ago. The building structure occupied at this time by the Community Baptist Church at 3032 Smith Street was once the worshipping places for a Seventh Day Adventist Church and the Church of God in Christ. Over the years, the neighborhood has become diversified. “It’s a mixed neighborhood, and we have a great deal of a Hispanic population who are a part of our Child Care Center; but they are not part of the parishioners,” said Pastor Williamson.
The church has the capacity to seat more than the 50 to 70 worshippers who attend on a Sunday. The question was asked: What is taking God out of the church? Pastor Williamson’s response was: “We’re been talking about that because there are two different aspects I look at, social media being one. People can stay at Bedside Baptist or can see Pastor on TV or on a computer. They fail to assemble themselves and stay at home and not come to fellowship. Two, I believe it’s a great falling away of which the Bible speaks of as it pertains to religion. Our millennial generation is not into it. They believe in a higher being, they believe in God, but they don’t believe in the sanctity of worship or church. So, it is hard and that’s what many pastors are now struggling with in trying to get them to come to church. Once our seniors, our mothers and grandmothers die off, church is going to be obsolete because kids are not coming to church. I really try to instill in my children the importance of church; the importance of loving one another and being kind to one another and being helpful to one another.”
Another question asked of Pastor was: What’s the age group of your parishioners?
“We have a mixture. My millennial group is what’s missing. I’ve got babies, teenagers, skip the millennials and we go to the 45 and up [group]. We are all having the same issues getting this group. They are so technology minded, and they are failing to see what is out there.” He reflected on a remark that his daughter made to him during Thanksgiving break about how the teachers were being very nonchalant about African-American history. “We as a race of people are not pressing the issue of trying to be relevant among our children, and we are allowing other people to erase us by helping them. My dad was a stickler with history in knowing your race and your heritage. That’s what I try to do.”
Pastor Williamson spoke about the church’s ministries. “We have Women of Worship (WOW) and the Missionary Society. The few millennials that we do have are participants of the Young Women’s Ministry team, which is the younger branch of the Missionary Society. We have our Ushers, Choir, Sunday School, Nurses, Pastor Aid, Youth Department, Child Care Ministry, Performing Arts Ministry, and ‘Hour of Power’ Bible Study/Youth Night. We are now handicapped accessible here at the church. Our wheel chair ramp was built about three weeks ago.”
Pastor Williamson has been the Onsite Director of the Child Care Center at the Church since 2016. Ms. Rochelle Dance is a long-time employee of the Child Care Center. “This day care has been here since 2001 at this location,” said Ms. Dance. “It is open Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., taking care of approximately 24 children during the day and after school.”
The Community Christian Counseling Center has been operating for several weeks. The Center provides professional services to children, adolescents, individuals, couples, and families. Ms. Crystal Kelly is a trustee of the Church, serves on the Young Women’s Ministry Team and is the Counselor for the Center. “I’m a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), and I came up with the idea and gave it to the Pastor, and he jumped aboard on that. This is a passion of mine to be able to help people in our community knowing that therapy is like a taboo in the African-American community. I want to at least try and change some of the people’s mindset and perspective when it comes to counseling. We’re looking for people who have issues dealing with anxiety and depression. I’m doing couples counseling and family counseling. Whatever the issue may be, they can come here to see me.”
The schedule of services on Sundays are 9:30 a.m. Sunday School for Adults and Young People and 10:45 a.m. Morning Worship Service. Additional information about the Christian Counseling Center can be provided by calling 260.456.2545.