Old name on an old friend

Recently, they changed the sign in front of the only church in downtown Fremont. For three years we've called it Fremont Community Church - a name appropriate to our use of this institution.

Beyond a place of worship, it also serves as meeting space, school, polling place and theater for various community groups of any denomination, and has done so for decades.

However, the church that began here in 1892, has always been and will henceforward be Fremont Baptist Church.

Its new pastor, the Rev. Judy Gay, explained that across the region - beyond Fremont - the name never changed.

Others simply failed to learn the name and simply know it as "that church with all the 12-step programs." The Rev. Judy counted 15 groups that currently conduct meetings there.

A 'chapel car church'

Established at first as a "chapel car church," the original missionaries set a base here to go out and evangelize. In 1912, they replaced the original wooden building with the brick edifice that stands today.

Seventeen different types of Baptist churches exist, the Rev. Judy taught me. Fremont Baptist belongs to the American Baptist Churches U.S.A., although the Church remains autonomous. For instance, the congregation chose its pastor - with help from a list of likely candidates.

The Rev. Judy lives in Lynnwood and attended Seattle Pacific University (on the southern shore opposite Fremont) for two degrees. She went to Fuller Theological Seminary, also across the canal.

"Fremont was always a place I drove through," she explained.

She worked in education - as an administrator and a special education teacher - before coming on as interim pastor at Fremont Baptist last July.

As of Jan. 1, she gratefully accepted the congregation's offer of a permanent job - her first pastorate.

Honoring relationships

At Fremont Baptist, the Rev. Judy proceeds lightly. Like a new principal at a school, she knows the importance of equilibrium and honoring existing relationships. She has no interest in revolutionizing Fremont Baptist.

She doesn't take credit for the name reversal - the congregation decided that.

She enjoys the diversity in this church. "Everyone is accepted," she explained, "You don't find that mix in suburban churches."

She spoke with respect about the past. She knows many members of her congregation have a long history here. While some don't live nearby, they did at one time, and they work to stay connected. Her parishioners want to help "their" neighborhood and "their" school, even if they no longer live in Fremont and never attended B.F. Day.

"I love being here," the Rev. Judy told me.

School support

Her enthusiasm shows, especially when she talks about our school. "B.F. Day is our community mission," she explained. "I sense an excitement here about it."

At first, they collected back-to-school supplies. Now, on the second Sunday of each month, they collect snack items. Teachers distribute these to children who attend after-school tutoring sessions.

Such efforts led to more opportunities. An office gave surplus notepads to the school. The church adopted two families at Christmas to give gifts to.

The Rev. Judy participates in literature circles with the children.

She learned about the school's clothes closet, and their need for toothbrushes and soap.

She attended one of B.F. Day's heartwarming family dinners and saw the strong support system among the families and school staff.

An urban school has different needs, she pointed out, just as does an urban church. B.F. Day must recruit students rather than taking enrollment for granted, like suburban schools do. B.F. Day has a population of students without permanent homes and some unique problems.

The Rev. Judy hopes to see community support for B.F. Day grow. Her dream right now is to see the needs of the school publicized and to have community-wide involvement.

Open to everyone

At the same time, they also work on growing as a church. A biannual concert takes place on May 18, with the Chinese Gospel Chorus, the O'Haras and the Fremont Baptist Choir performing.

No matter what your denomination - if you have one - the Fremont Baptist Church invites you to attend. It may no longer say "community church" outside, but just like always, everyone from anywhere finds something within.

Kirby Lindsay has voted, met, purchased books and sampled cookies at the Fremont Baptist Church over many years. She welcomes your comments at fremont@oz.net.

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