CAPE GIRARDEAU – Neighborhood church has a special meaning for Bethany Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau. Shawn Wasson, pastor, as well as a Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Board member, described the church as “tucked in a neighborhood.”
“We want to be a good neighbor,” Wasson said. “When I first came to the church in 2003, the school next door, Alma Schrader Elementary School, called to see if there was an emergency if they could bring the students over. That cooperation began a wonderful partnership.”
Now, Bethany works all year with the school faculty, staff, and students. “We serve and encourage them by recognizing birthdays for the faculty and doing something special at Christmas,” Wasson said. “Fran Austin coordinates the work done with the school. We also offer an after-school program for third and fourth grade girls. A van picks them up from school and brings them to the church for Fabulous Bible Investigating (FBI) led by Debbie Bowers.”
The church gives to the community by offering AWANA on Wednesday night. “Many churches of various denominations send their children to our program,” Wasson continued. “Donna Johnson leads that ministry, and it is a service to the community.”
Members of the church are finding other ways to serve the community according to Wasson.
“We have a local crisis pregnancy program that several denominations support and we have members serving in that capacity,” he said. “Also, we are planning to begin a food pantry for ‘Options for Women’ to be a help to young mothers. We are active with the Cape Girardeau Baptist Association and their ministries, for instance we offer scholarships to the Peaceful Valley Camp.”
Wasson also mentioned the great work done by Bill and Kay Adams with Disaster Relief.
“I think our participation in ministry by members of the congregation is one of the strengths of Bethany,” Wasson said. “When I was at Southern Seminary, Tom Rainer, one of my professors, talked about ‘Unleashing the Laity,’ and our congregation believes in that principle.”
The Bethany congregation encourages all the members to be active in the city, including their pastor. “I serve as the chaplain for the county police in Cape and in Jackson,” he said. “I also serve on the board of the Cape Girardeau regional airport, and I write a weekly column for the Southeast Missourian.”
Wasson writes about current events structured with a foundation in scripture. “We need to get out of the four walls of our church and take an active part of culture,” he continued. “We need to make connections and build relationships with all people. We need to be missional, intentional about being in the community.”
This Sunday, Bethany will offer “Spring into Worship,” with a special program with visitors from the Association. After the service, the congregation will gather for a meal.
“This is our way of getting the Seniors back to worship,” Wasson said. “The meal will be safe and catered.”
This special emphasis will also be the beginning of a thirteen-week run of radio spots sponsored by the church. “We pray that these spots done by the staff, ministry leaders and members of the congregation will be a reminder to the community to return to worship at our church as well as others in the area.”