By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
BORDEAUX — Bobby Hatfield admits he was the “hold out” in the group of the 14 remaining members of Bordeaux Baptist Church here in metropolitan Nashville.
“I’ve been the hold out. I was committed to doing everything we can to keep the church open. …”
“This is home church for us. … It was family,” he explained, noting that he and his family had been active members for 18 years. In fact Hatfield was saved and baptized at Bordeaux Baptist at age 10 after which he was away for some years.
However, recently Hatfield admitted to the rest of the congregation that he too had to consider a change. Amazingly, the next day, he received a call from Rusty Sumrall, director of missions, Nashville Baptist Association, asking if Bordeaux would consider some arrangement to help a black congregation needing some meeting space. Sumrall had been working with Bordeaux Baptist for about five years.
Hatfield agreed to organize a meeting in a few days with members of Bordeaux and two leaders of New Season Church, Joelton, the congregation seeking meeting space.
Initially at that meeting which was held at Bordeaux Baptist, there were some awkward moments, both Sumrall and Hatfield reported. Sumrall had to step out to make a phone call and when he returned just a few minutes later, the awkwardness had not only disappeared but everyone was joking about their high school years as “Cobras,” the mascot of the nearby school where Bobby Hatfield and five fellow members and Dwayne Lewis, pastor, New Season Church, had attended not many years apart.
Soon Hatfield said, “This is a God-ordained meeting.”
A few days later at another meeting, Bordeaux Baptist members decided to give their facility to New Season Church, which draws about 150 people on Sunday mornings and was meeting at its sponsoring church, First Baptist Church, Joelton, because it had been asked to leave the school in which it was meeting in May.
Another amazing fact is that New Season had planned to begin ministering in Bordeaux. Now they could minister there full-time and out of their facility.
The issue was never about race for the members of Bordeaux Baptist explained Hatfield. They and most of the other Anglo members of the church made up about 20 percent of their neighborhoods. The other 80 percent are African-American.
The church had even called a black preacher from South Africa for pulpit supply, but was never able to connect with African-Americans on a regular basis.
“We prayed to God to help us reach people. … We could not reach that community. We tried and we tried,” agreed both Bobby and Debbie Hatfield.
The couple and the other members, though, “felt a kinship with Bro. Dwayne” and realized his church “had all that we didn’t have,” said Bobby Hatfield.
“You can either think that it’s a coincidence or that ‘It’s not odd; it’s a God moment,’ ” he added.
The New Season Church members and Lewis are thrilled, he said.
They had been meeting in the school facility for about five years until May when new school leadership asked them to leave with very little notice. The first year of its founding by church planter Lewis, New Season met in
a nursing home.
Thankfully, the congregation’s sponsoring church was making space, but it would not have worked out permanently.
“We always wanted to have a home, our permanent home,” said Lewis, adding that over the past several years nothing worked out and they were even rebuffed to the point of discouragement. The facility of a church belonging to another denomination needed to be sold and then was on the market but would not work with New Season.
“In the midst of all the doors that closed on us, we kept the faith,” explained Lewis.
Then they received the gift of Bordeaux Baptist. “It is such a divine or supernatural time for us, for our prayers to be answered so accurately. We prayed for a building, and at times for a debt-free building, and it happened. … The faith of our members — and many are new Christians — and our sponsoring church has just increased in ways you can’t imagine.”
Now New Season can offer tutoring, parenting classes, summer food programs, and GED preparation classes, noted Lewis.
Another great thing is that the members of Bordeaux Baptist are attending New Season Baptist, said Lewis.
The members of New Season have thanked them at a service of New Season which Bordeaux attended by canceling activities and at the final service of Bordeaux Baptist. “We embraced our new brothers and sisters,” described Hatfield.
New Season has received a debt-free facility which includes a 300-seat sanctuary sitting on about an acre of land which is worth about $300,000. As part of the agreement, which was developed through the Tennessee Baptist Foundation, a Bordeaux Baptist legacy fund has been developed to benefit Nashville Baptist Association. If the church building is sold or if New Season leaves the association, 25 percent of the value of the property will be placed into the legacy fund, reported Sumrall.
He noted that timing was important in this good outcome. “There really is a need for an African-American church in that location,” Sumrall said.
Hatfield added, “We think Bro. Dwayne is going to do great over there and we’re going to be there with him.”