Church family to mark milestone
A variety of ministries strives to include everyone in a caring atmosphere.
By LINDA M. LINONIS
VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR
BOARDMAN -- The Rev. Dennis L. Massie and his wife, Eleanor, arrived a decade ago at Boardman Baptist Church. Since then, they have initiated positive activities such as organizing an adult choir, restarting Sunday school classes, starting a Bible Club and promoting an active missions program.
All that and more, along with memories from the church's 50-year history, will be celebrated Sunday.
But it was a negative event that brought the couple, originally from Indiana, to Ohio. "Our son, Todd, went to Myrtle Beach [S.C.] and disappeared," Mrs. Massie said. "His car was later found in Virginia."
The couple said they were on good terms with their son, who lived in Akron, and spoke to him regularly. "But he made some bad lifestyle choices," the Rev. Mr. Massie said. The reason for the trip to Myrtle Beach is a mystery to them.
Subsequent investigations by police and a private investigator tracked their son's activities to a certain point and then nothing. And it remains that way.
"It was the catalyst for us ... we needed to be closer to our daughter and grandchildren," Mrs. Massie said. Their daughter, Lisa Tomlins, her husband and three children live in Akron. At that time, another son, Jevon Massie, was in the military. He now is married and lives in Valdosta, Ga.
Mr. Massie also said their family tragedy has "helped me to be more understanding and less judgmental" in his work as a pastor. "I think people get help from our experience," he said.
About the church
Mr. Massie, who has been a minister since he was 24 and is 62 now, had served in churches in Indiana and Ohio. He said he learned about a vacancy at the Boardman church through the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. "I was able to find this church and it has worked out," Mr. Massie said.
When the Massies came, the church membership was on the low side. "It's more than doubled and is at 116," Mr. Massie said.
Mr. Massie began door-to-door visitation, a practice he continues. The diligence has produced results. "I usually go out around supper time when people are home," he said. "And sometimes go out two or three times a week. I introduce myself and have a leaflet [on the church] if they want it."
Mr. Massie said he started with neighborhoods around the church and fanned out from there, visiting other neighborhoods in Boardman, Canfield, Cornersburg, Austintown, Poland and parts of Youngstown.
"Most people do have a church affiliation; a few don't," he said. "At Sunday services, I see about 16 percent to 20 percent of the congregation ... [are] people I have visited."
The Massies also said they knew the value of developing and sustaining ministries geared to all age groups.
Music was an important element to Mrs. Massie, so she was instrumental in the formation of an adult choir and is its director. "I come from a musical family," she said. "Choir is a big deal and an important part of the ministry. The Christmas cantata is a big deal for us."
The Massies also started a children's church program for 4-year-olds through sixth-graders, and it's led by Vic and Terri Thacker. "Bible stories, puppetry and artwork are among activities," the pastor said. The children's segment takes place while adults are attending worship. There also is a nursery supervised by Chris Means.
A weekly Bible Club is geared to children while adults have Bible study. "You have to keep doing different things," Mr. Massie said. These activities revolve around Bible stories and verses.
A missions program also engages the congregation, with 25 percent of the weekly offering benefiting missions that have been in Brazil, Eastern Europe, France, Great Britain and Mongolia. The church donates to eight missionary families and four mission agencies.
"The ladies fellowship has a cupboard filled with personal-needs items," Mrs. Massie said, so when missionaries visit, they can get some personal supplies. "We're missionary-minded and want to keep it that way."
She added that the women's fellowship offers camaraderie for the group, which studies the Bible and shares prayer requests.
The couple also restarted the men's fellowship breakfasts. A deacon, Warren Figulski, is in charge of cooking. The breakfasts have no formal agenda, just a time of fellowship, prayer and Bible study for participants.
The church's teenage members also have spent time at Skyview Ranch in Millersburgh, a Christian camp and retreat center with activities for participants of all ages.
The church's growth has led to a renewed effort for a building fund called the Joash offering. "There's a passage in the Bible about King Joash and a temple needing repair," Mr. Massie said. "We took that idea."
Donations are placed in special cloth bags and go into a handmade wooden chest crafted by trustee Al Barnett. The building fund began in 2000 and continues. "We've outgrown this building," Mr. Massie said, and noted the structure would eventually become an education center after a new church is built. The church owns nearly eight acres, so there is room to expand.
The anniversary has been six months in the planning, Mrs. Massie said. "We sent out about 150 letters to past members and people have spread the word," she said.
The Massies also are looking forward to a personal celebration -- their 41st wedding anniversary in April. Mrs. Massie said she had always thought she would be a pastor's wife.