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As Braden United Methodist Church celebrates its 100th anniversary this weekend, the central city congregation is already looking to the future.
'People are very excited about this anniversary and things are going well, but our greatest challenge has been our building,' said the Rev. Wynston Dixon, pastor.
Like many urban churches, Braden is dealing with an aging, energy-inefficient building that is a financial strain on the small congregation.
Its 84-year-old brick building, with a towering cupola visible from I-75 and a sanctuary that seats 1,000, is too large and costly for the 150 regular worshippers to maintain, Mr. Dixon said.
'That is why we're in the process of transitioning from this building, trying to find another place. The heating bill is just ridiculous,' he said.
Braden's centennial celebration has included special honors for former pastors, with four of them recognized on separate Sundays in September: the Rev. Albert Reed, the Rev. William Davis, the Rev. Roland Moore, and the Rev. Donnetta Peaks.
A gala banquet was held last night at the Clarion Westgate Hotel and the Centennial Worship Service will be at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow. The special guest speaker for the celebration is the Rev. Zan Holmes, an author, pastor, and former adjunct professor of preaching at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas. He was Mr. Dixon's seminary professor.
Braden traces its roots to 1908, when the Canton Street Mission was organized in downtown Toledo. The group joined the Methodist denomination. which sent the Rev. George Chinn of Columbus, to serve as pastor.
The official church history states that the congregation voted in 1920 to move to City Park and Belmont avenues to better serve Toledo's growing black population.
One of two existing buildings on the property was used for worship until 1924, when a new church was dedicated. The Canton Street Mission was renamed in honor of the Rev. John Braden, president of Walden University in Nashville.
Braden moved to its current location in 1956 when it purchased the building formerly used by Washington Congregational Church, at Lawrence and West Woodruff avenues, for $100,000.
Washington Congregational had left that building, which was built in 1924 for a cost of $2,000, to build a new facility on West Central Avenue.
Mr. Dixon said Braden is not only looking for a new location but for ways 'to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this day of technology.'
He said the goal is to 'let the message stay the same but communicate it in a new way.' Tuning into new technology is essential if the church is going to reach young people, he said.
Every fifth Sunday at Braden is dedicated to the church's youth, who provide the music and the preaching on those days.
'They look at it as their thing and it's been exciting for the congregation,' Mr. Dixon said.
The pastor has been at Braden United Methodist since 2005, and prior to that served as pastor of Asbury United Methodist on Dorr Street.
A native of Liberia, West Africa, the 52-year-old Mr. Dixon said he always wanted to be a minister.
'Oh yes, all of my life. I felt my calling at a very young age, when I was in the sixth grade basically. And that's all I've done ministerial work,' he said.
He said his parents were active members of the United Methodist church in Liberia. He moved to the United States in 1982 and came to Toledo in 2000.
Braden United Methodist Church, 2013 Lawrence Ave., will hold its Centennial Worship Service at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow.