By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
FRANKLIN — To reach its neighborhood, which is home to a lot of Hispanics, Walker Memorial Baptist Church here considered starting a Hispanic congregation. Then it learned from the Tennessee Baptist Convention staff of a Baptist Hispanic congregation meeting in its city and God began to work.
What Walker Memorial Baptist and Iglesia Bautista de las Americas (Baptist Church of the Americas) worked out led the Hispanic church to leave a bigger church building where they were meeting to move to Walker Memorial for one reason, the two pastors explained.
Josh Franks, pastor, Walker Memorial, and Nathan Velasquez, pastor, Las Americas, said both congregations will be better able to minister to the Hispanic neighbors of Walker Memorial if they work together.
Simply put, they needed each other.
“The local church has to minister to the local community. … I don’t fully understand the culture and I don’t speak the language so I’m unable to minister to the community effectively,” Franks said.
“We are moving for the strategic location of Walker Memorial and the relationship we will have with them,” said Velasquez, who formerly was president of the Venezuelan Baptist Convention and then served a Hispanic church in Texas.
Las Americas will continue to meet for its main service each Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at Walker Memorial, just like it did at The Church at West Franklin, where it formerly met. The Church at West Franklin is a regional campus of Brentwood. That service is held in Spanish but members of Las Americas will hold joint activities with Walker Memorial.
Wednesday evening services will be a joint service and the congregations will conduct other activities and missions work together. On Saturday, March 26, the two congregations held their first joint event — an Easter activity for families. If translation is needed, that will be provided, the two pastors agreed.
Walker Memorial officially invited Las Americas to join with them on March 20 and it began meeting there April 3.
The relationship will be worked out in a joint advisory council which will be made up of leaders of the two congregations. Walker Memorial draws about 175 people to Sunday morning activities and Las Americas about 70 to Sunday activities.
Walker Memorial members are becoming more involved in the Christian Women’s/Men’s Job Corps of Middle Tennessee which meets in its facility and assists many Hispanics, said Franks. Members of Las Americas also bring skills to the table such as language, knowledge of the Hispanic culture, and skills which enable them to repair and renovate the facility, both pastors noted.
“We didn’t want to be landlords to a congregation,” said Franks.
“This is two churches in one body together,” said Velasquez.
“This is a church with separate identities but one mission — to reach our community,” said Franks.