Maybe there’s something in the drinking water in Caldwell — or in the waters of the Baptistery of the First Baptist Church.
Most likely, it is in the hearts of those who regard Caldwell’s First Baptist Church as their family – a commitment to serve one another and serve their Lord for years to come.
Eugene Peterson defined discipleship as “a long obedience in the same direction.” He could have described Caldwell’s congregation.
First Baptist in Caldwell has an unusual number of people who have worked at the same tasks for decades. Despite everything, it is a close-knit family that continues to welcome new members and gladly provide them with places to serve.
“Our people realize that it enriches the church to be open and welcoming. There is a desire to bring more people into the family, ”said Paul Batista, whose family has been with First Baptist in Caldwell for six generations.
Set a high standard
In a church where long-standing service is the norm, Dorothy Broaddus sets a high standard. She worked in the church office for 60 years, the last 40 of which was as church treasurer and financial secretary.
For most of her 96 years, she lived across the street from the First Baptist building, which first led her to work in the church office.
“The pastor was shouting at the door, ‘Dorothy, are you busy? I need something typed, ”she recalls.
For four decades, she worked closely with the church finance committee, keeping track of all financial matters and preparing a monthly report for the congregation.
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“When I started, the church had a budget of $ 17,000. Now it’s about $ 600,000, ”she said.
She performs her duties with pencil, paper and a calculating machine.
“I don’t even know how to turn on a computer,” she said.
For most of his years as a financial secretary, Broaddus walked from his home to the church office. During the worst part of the COVID-19 pandemic, she was working from home, but in recent months she has returned to the office across the street.
“God took care of me and watched over me,” she said. “God saw me through it all. This is not what I did. This is what God has done through me.
Raised in the church music ministry
At 84, Ray Ann Alford can’t quite match her sister-in-law’s long tenure with First Baptist, but she’s been a church pianist for 50 years.
It is no exaggeration to say that she has been a part of the church’s music ministry most of her life, given that her mother, Ray Broaddus, was the longtime organist and occasional pianist of the ‘church. The duo performed together for 15 years – the mother at the organ and the daughter at the piano – until their mother retired.
“My mother has taught us all (Alford and his sisters) about music since the time we were still in the womb,” she said. “I grew up in this church. … It means everything to me.
Alford fondly remembers the music directors – some paid music ministers and other volunteer vocalists – with whom she worked over the five decades. She particularly remembers the good times she spent with Dorothy Batista, who conducted music for over 20 years and was on several occasions Acting Music Director.
Unsurprisingly, given the multigenerational nature of First Baptist at Caldwell, the church’s 150th anniversary story said of Dorothy Batista: “Her mother and grandparents were instrumental in establishing the wonderful music programs that continue to this day.
The 150th story also added, “Anyone who has heard Dorothy sing knows that the Lord has blessed her with a voice like angels.
Her son Paul certainly agreed, noting that his mother’s voice was “loud and pure, like a piece of crystal”. If anyone objected to a woman leading the cult, they had never heard of it.
“Everyone knows everyone pretty well, and I think most people considered her to be the most qualified person, so they thought she should do it,” he said.
Alford also praises his instrumental colleague Cassandra Russell, who began serving as organist at the First Baptist in Caldwell 25 years ago, after several years as an assistant pianist.
“I had to educate myself on the stops and pedals,” recalls Russell.
“It’s more a ministry than a job”
The organ that Ray Broaddus and others played for many years is still in the chapel of the church. Russell plays the “new organ”, consecrated in 1991 in the church sanctuary.
Nadine McManus became secretary of the First Baptist Church in Caldwell 38 years ago, about eight years after joining the church.
“It’s more of a ministry than a job for me,” she said. “I am just honored and humbled to serve here.”
This is characteristic of the attitude of most people at First Baptist in Caldwell, according to Charles and Jane Sebesta. He has been a member for 54 years. She joined five years later when they married.
He was a deacon for approximately 45 years and served on several committees. She taught Sunday School for at least 30 years and held other positions.
“Here we have a family attitude. This is why we have such a loyal group of people, ”he said.
While the Sebestas described the church as a tight-knit family, they noted a significant number of young families who have continued to join in recent years and take on leadership roles.
“They get started right away and work,” she said, pointing in particular to a young mother of four and a fifth on the way who ran the holiday Bible school. “We welcome young people. … There are a lot of jobs to be done.
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