HUDSON -- As the old rhyme declares, “Here's the church and here's the steeple. Open the door and see all the people.”
Oh, if only it were so for the Lakeview Baptist Church in Hudson. It has no steeple, no church and barely any people. It also doesn’t have a pastor.
It was a Tuesday night in the summer of 2010, recalled Michael Shepard, who at the time was a Lakeview parishioner. One of the deacons had just left Shepard’s home after a game of cards when on his way home he saw the flames shooting over the trees. The church sanctuary was completely destroyed.
Today Shepard is a teaching deacon who stands in for a pastor, holding Sunday readings for the church’s eight parishioners. He’s in training to become a pastor, but he and other members of the church are open to any “honorable” pastor who might be interested. It’s been a hard few years, said Shepard.
“We’re struggling,” he conceded. “We’re struggling.”
Still the church goes on, operating on the belief that a church is more than the sum of its parts and more than even a church building itself. Services are held every Sunday in the metal warehouse on the property at 11010 Tami Trail, off State Road 52. The building served as the storage and distribution center for a food pantry operation, that at one time served as many as 400 families in need, said Shepard. A portion of the building has been closed in so it could be heated and air conditioned for services. There’s enough room to seat 40. There’s a children’s play room and a nursery area. It’s about as humble a church as you’ll find, Shepard said, but as the Lakeview Facebook page says, “Church is not something you go to, it’s a family you belong to.”
“We need help,” Shepard said. “We’ve been through a lot and what we need now is more people.”
He and other members of the church are not looking for handouts. They’re looking for people who want to be part of their struggling family—people who can attend services, help spread the word about a little church in need of “rebirthing.” Together, he believes, Lakeview can rise from the ashes of its misfortunes.
Shepard said those misfortunes may in some ways be a blessing, however, as he and the members have learned what it is that truly makes a church.
“If you can imagine someone reading the Bible at home for years, and only knowing the word that way and then going to one of the big, modern churches we see today, they would not recognize it as anything like what they envisioned,” Shepard said. “What we have is more like what someone would expect a church to be based on their readings of the Bible.”
He said in the early days of this country is was not unusual for a church to have no sanctuary at first.
“They held services in each other’s homes, had dinner together,” he said.
That said, the goal of Lakeview Baptist is to rebuild the sanctuary, then perhaps build a parsonage for a pastor and family. A food pantry could be reopened and Lakeview Baptist can get back to helping those who need it most. The church has seven acres, so there’s plenty of room, Shepard said.
Though it was considered for a time, so far, no effort has been made to raise money through crowd funding or through online avenues, he said. The belief is that if Lakeview “gets the people, those things will come.”
“If we can fill the place, we’ll have the money,” he added.
It’s a matter of getting out the message that a church is more than ornate stained glass, exotic wood pews or lavish alters. Lakeview has enough money to pay its bills, and more than enough heart to trudge on, said Shepard.
Sunday services will continue at 10 a.m., as will the potluck dinners after service on the first Sunday of the month. Wednesday evening Bible readings will continue at 7 p.m. sharp, and everyone will keep up the faith that things will work out.