Pastor launches new church in Waterbury

Rev. Lydell Brown/ContributedWATERBURY – Churches are losing members.

In the mid 1990s, nearly 30 percent of Americans went to church each week. As of 2006, that number was down by about 6 percent, according to the Association of Religion Data Archives.

But the Rev. F. Lydell Brown didn’t let those statistics stop him from launching a new church in Waterbury, where in only six months attendance has quadrupled.

Burning Bush Family Life Center, housed at First Lutheran Evangelical Church at 88 Cooke St., began in June after Brown felt called to leave the AME Zion church he was leading.

“I stepped out on my own,” he said. “A lot of people are searching for something different.”

He was an AME Zion pastor for 13 years but felt it was time to explore a new approach to ministry.

“What folks want is a fresh expression of worship,” he said.

And, Brown added, a vibrant sermon that fits into people’s busy lives. He hopes Burning Bush will attract those who are unchurched and who may be looking for, “something to make their lives better.”

His belief, he said, is that church really starts after the Sunday service when people go back out into the community and try to live godly lives.

His sermons are succinct (20 to 30 minutes) and full of energy. Eight girls from the church, ages 8 to 14, enhance worship by performing praise dances, which Brown said are old negro spirituals told through dance.

The church has also teamed with First Lutheran by coming together for a joined worship service and mingling each week between services during coffee hour.

“We’re looking to do some great things together,” Brown said.

His church, which has a large black and Hispanic population, has kept First Lutheran bustling, which Rev. Diane E. Rainson, pastor of First Lutheran said is a blessing.

“We’re now the buzzing Lutheran church on the hill,” she said. “It’s great hope for the neighborhood. We’ve got a buzz going on and it’s a totally new energy.”

Brown said he hopes to use his connections with statewide organizations to get his congregation, and Firth Lutheran’s, involved with crucial issues. He’s a member of the Concerned Black Clergy Council, the Conference of Churches, the Governor’s taskforce on Urban Violence, the Connecticut Fatherhood Advisory Board, and the Connecticut Community Foundation. He is also active in HIV/AIDS programs.

“I give so much to Hartford, now it’s time for me to give to Waterbury,” he said. “We definitely want to be community oriented.”

The church gathers Sundays at 11:15 a.m. For information call (203) 819-3006.

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