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Church taps Super Bowl to reach its transitioning neighborhood


SAN DIEGO (BP)–There’s a small Southern Baptist church in the southeastern part of San Diego that takes its responsibility for evangelizing the neighborhood seriously. Encanto Southern Baptist Church is known as the colorful church that looks like an Army barracks. That’s fine for most of the 250-plus members, but whatever you do, don’t accuse church leaders of painting the building pink.

“It’s peach,” said Pat Hoggard, a youth Sunday School worker. “Most people know this church by our shape and the color of our building.”

For the record, the church’s sanctuary is a former Marine barracks.

Regardless, church members are ready to wage a spiritual battle and win their community for Jesus Christ. The plan is coming together in the shape of a Super Bowl block party sponsored by Encanto and the San Diego Baptist Association. On the night of Jan. 22, about 50 church members gathered for evangelism training. Ranging from senior adults to children, a representative of the association took the group through a rigorous course in sharing the gospel.

Hoggard said the training will come in handy when the church hosts a Jan. 25 party for the entire neighborhood.

“We want the people in our community to know that we are interested in their spiritual needs,” she said, noting that Encanto is one of a handful of multi-ethnic congregations in the city.

“When people are seeking Jesus, they come to the church and we want to be there to lead them to Christ.”

Ironically, the mostly African American church founded more than 50 years ago has found itself in a situation that many white Southern Baptist churches have encountered — the neighborhood is changing.

Instead of fleeing to the suburbs, the church decided to stay and begin ministries to the growing Hispanic population. Today, nearly 80 percent of the community is Hispanic and the church sponsors a Hispanic congregation.

“One of the things we don’t want is to attract a certain type of person,” Hoggard said. “The doors of our church are open for everyone. Like the Bible says, ‘Whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’ We welcome the whosoevers.”

Robert Pope, chairman of the deacons at Encanto, agreed, noting that the community probably sees the church as a black congregation.

“We’ve been trying to incorporate a number of ministries for the Hispanics in this area,” Pope said. “One of the ways we do that is to incorporate the Spanish ministers in our services. We want to evangelize people and win folks for Christ no matter their color.”

Hoggard said she believes the Super Bowl block party will help strengthen the church’s relationship with the community.

“I think people will let the walls down a little bit,” she said.

Carol Noland, a relatively new church member, agreed. “What a great opportunity for the church and the community to get together and fellowship,” said Noland, the wife of a Navy man.

“The best thing is that it doesn’t cost anything,” she added. “Ever since we moved here, this church has been like family and I believe that many people in our community see the church in the same light.”

As for the party, Noland said she anticipates it being a lot like going to “grandma’s house on Super Bowl Sunday.”

“There will be lots of food, lots of laughter and lots of love,” Noland said.

As for the future of the church, Noland said there’s no better place to have a Southern Baptist church than in Southern California.

“My husband is from Birmingham [Ala.] and he grew up in a Southern Baptist church,” she said. “And the one here in San Diego offers all the comforts of home.”
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(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at https://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: TEENS’ SUPER BOWL WITNESS, ALL INVOLVED, TAKING NOTE, SAN DIEGO BEACON and PREPARING TO WITNESS.

    About the Author

  • Todd Starnes