First Baptist Church of Seymour has a long history of helping community organizations during times of need.
Whether it was to provide a place of refuge for those affected by flooding of the Ohio River in 1937, a place of hospitality for airmen during World War II or a place of learning and worship for schools like Trinity Lutheran High School and Emerson Elementary School during renovations, First Baptist has never been afraid to open its doors.
When the idea of helping The Alley by offering a temporary space inside First Baptist’s walls was presented, leaders didn’t hesitate in extending a hand.
[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]
The Alley, a nondenominational Christian church serving the poor, hungry, homeless and addicted, moved all of its operations to First Baptist at 505 Community Drive two weeks ago.
This past year was tough for The Alley, as it changed locations twice. Since 2017, the church has worked out of three different buildings.
The Alley was operating out of 416 E. Second St. on a month-by-month basis until this past summer.
The building was owned by a local Guatemalan ministry that shared the space with The Alley. Due to the growth of their own church, the Guatemalans were in need of the entire building to serve their congregation.
A temporary home was provided for The Alley until First Baptist stepped in.
Local commercial real estate owner and developer Andy Royalty of Seymour allowed the church to take up residence in the former Save-A-Lot grocery store in the West Towne Plaza at the end of July 2019.
The Rev. Jeremy Myers, lead pastor at First Baptist, said he and Matt Fleetwood, The Alley president and board member, had informal talks about coming together while the church was on Second Street.
“They knew their lease was coming to an end and were looking for some options,” Myers said. “He was here for one of the community unity services, and we walked down and I showed him the building. I told him that if there were an emergency situation, we could talk about housing The Alley here.”
The two churches had worked together on numerous occasions prior to occupying the same building.
Since Myers moved to Seymour in 2017, he has preached several times at The Alley.
This past September, The Alley moved its kitchen to feed the hungry to First Baptist while it was transitioning to its new location.
“First Baptist opened their doors for the kitchen. They said we were welcome as long as we needed to,” Fleetwood said. “We were in the process of trying to open up a kitchen where we were, but it never panned out. They told us to take our time. We had the opportunity to move our church, and they opened their arms and doors to us.”
Members of both churches started getting to know each other right away.
On Wednesdays, First Baptist has its weekly church dinner. First Baptist prepares the meal for both groups, and the meals overlap to bring the congregations together.
A youth group also has been serving meals at The Alley for years.
John Kelley, chairman of the board of deacons at First Baptist, presented the idea of hosting The Alley.
“We started talking with our boards here, the deacon boards and board of trustees and leadership of the church, and then approached them,” Myers said. “We wanted to see if they were interested in utilizing their space while trying to find out what the long-term solution is.”
To Myers, inviting The Alley in was a no-brainer.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Myers said. “The long and short of it is that their imperatives and desire to reach the community is very consistent with ours. Truthfully, they open us up to ministry and allow us to help people in the community we wouldn’t be able to reach on our own. For us, from the leadership of First Baptist, it made sense.
“From our understanding of what Scripture teaches, it was the right thing to do,” he said. “We have people trying to reach others with a message of hope, with a message of recovery, restoration and truth and a message of that coming through a relationship with Jesus Christ. That is consistent with where we are as a church. We have the group that needed space doing those things, and we had space. To not open it would be selfish. It would be sinful.”
All programs are back to normal scheduling for The Alley.
Celebrate Recovery classes are conducted at 7 p.m. Wednesdays, and the kitchen serves meals from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
The Alley van also is still transporting those needing assistance. Transportation is available by calling 812-946-0258.
A food pantry is available every second and fourth Thursday. The church has worship services at 7 p.m. Fridays.
Board member and treasurer Tina Fleetwood said The Alley has seen an increase in participation in all programs since moving to First Baptist.
Sara Bowling, who manages the kitchen, said morale has boosted with the move.
“It feels like we’ve been adopted and brought into this establishment that has already been working and has everything we need,” she said.
While both sides are figuring out what the next step is, Myers said First Baptist won’t force The Alley out after its sixth-month agreement is up.
“We will give them the freedom to be able to breathe easy while they figure out what the next step is for them,” Myers said.
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”If you go” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
What: The Alley
When: Worship services are at 7 p.m. Fridays; Celebrate Recovery meetings are at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays; The Alley Kitchen is open from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday
Where: First Baptist Church, 505 Community Drive, Seymour