By Susan LeDoux
If buildings could speak, Brighton Presbyterian Church at 1775 East Avenue would tell of its brave beginning in 1817, of growth, of loss, and renewal. On December 2, its historical Fellowship Hall will host the church’s bicentennial anniversary banquet for members and local dignitaries.
The Good News chatted with Rev. Tim Luddy about his congregation and the building that is home to Brighton Presbyterian Church, The Well Congregation, New Life Ethiopian Church, and the para-church ministry, Bethel Express.
According to Luddy, Lieutenant Solomon Allen of George Washington’s army accepted a post-war land grant in our area. Allen, a pioneer missionary as well, felt called to work with children, but soon the parents clamored for a church. And so, in 1817, Brighton Presbyterian Church was founded. After losing the first two church buildings to fires, the congregation built the current impressive stone building that still graces the corner of Winton Road and East Avenue in Rochester.
The building itself has been a factor in Brighton Presbyterian’s unique role in the city. Luddy told of the day in 2006 when the elders had gathered to discuss whether to close the church due to dramatic losses among the congregation. Just then, Pastor Peter Kim knocked on the door and asked if they had space to rent for his Korean Onnuri Church.
“Everybody looked at each other. Maybe this was the way to keep the building open,” Luddy said. Pastor Pete and his congregation settled in, and soon another church rented space.
Since then, welcoming other denominations to share worship space in this grand structure has led to many blessings, Luddy said, and like any home with a large family, people learn to accommodate.
“I’m so proud of our folks. They have had to learn how to share their building, by God’s grace.” Luddy chuckled when he said he believed his congregation probably has the earliest Presbyterian Sunday service in Rochester — shoehorned in at 9:15 AM. Besides a huge Thanksgiving meal, the congregations worship together four times a year.
Brighton Presbyterian’s unique use of its building matches Rev. Luddy’s interesting status as a bi-vocational pastor, which, Luddy said, has it blessings. He enjoys his work as Quality Assurance Manager for XLI Corporation, manufacturer of parts used by the Department of Defense and the medical industry, among other things. As an ordained minister, he said he approaches work with a different perspective.
“With my theological education, full and part time work in ministry, it’s interesting how I interact with co-workers…It’s been a real joy to be in there, working, and bearing witness to Christ.” He said being in the workplace often gives him ideas for sermons since issues that come up may relate to various texts in the Bible.
Besides helping the church and his family economically, Luddy said not being in the building full times allows others to fill in. His wife, Kerry, is invaluable as a trained counselor who also does community relations and manages the church’s web site.
Luddy praised the large para-church ministry, Bethel Express, run from Brighton Presbyterian. Headed by Michael and Julia Peace, Luddy described it as “God’s secret weapon in the city” because it reaches out to pre-teens whose parents are absent.
The congregation is currently exploring the idea of their own before and after school program for children as a way to help moms and dads. They hope, after New York State gives its blessing, to begin the program by fall of 2018.
They currently offer a “parents night out” four times a year when they open the church in the evening so parents can have time together while their children are cared for. “We‘ll feed them, give them a Bible story — sort of a mini-VBS for a few hours,” Luddy said.
He believes they have reached a point in ministry where God has positioned them to reach out. Based on the book “Simple Church” by Eric Geiger, Brighton Presbyterian now builds on its strength and eliminates the rest.
“We discovered we were running in ten different directions for a small church, and were tiring ourselves out. We have shrunk down to a corporate congregational prayer night (Wednesday) from 6:00-7:00 PM; then small groups meet 7:00-8:30 PM and cover a book or a book of the Bible.” Added to that are the BP kid’s classes and BP teens, which are their Sunday school programs for youngsters where “we love them and share the Word with them.”
Recently, the congregation voted to be released from Presbyterian Church, USA and has now been received into the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
Luddy explained, “Evangelical speaks about our bringing the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, into the community. It’s pretty much that simple…Orthodox speaks to adherence to the scriptures. Our confessional standard in the EPC, which is the Westminster Confession of Faith, talks about the Bible being our only rule in faith and life, period…Everyone is very excited.”
When asked what he would like to add, Luddy said, “One of the things that has been burning in the hearts of many pastors I’ve talked to is that we believe there is going to be another great awakening like there was in the 19th century with Charles Finney. Spiritually speaking, it’s been like the sunrise in the morning. It comes up and begins to warm your face. I think many pastors in the city feel the same way — God is going to do something significant in this nation and a lot of people are going to be reignited in their faith for one thing. Also, others coming into the Kingdom will need guidance and sound Biblical teaching. So we have been standing on that, and preparing ourselves to welcome new people.”
After 200 years, Brighton Presbyterian Church looks forward to its next century with open arms and hope for the future.