BY JOHN-HENRY DOUCETTE
BACK BAY — In the city’s south, where a number of churches stretch back hundreds of years, Back Bay Christian Assembly is something of a new kid on the rural block.
This year is the 30th anniversary for a congregation that started with a pastor and seven people in May 1986, with meetings in a restaurant, then renting a small building in Creeds, then building at 1212 Princess Anne Road in 1996 before moving into the church the following Easter Sunday.
The current pastor, the Rev. Kevin Milcarek, is entering his 22nd year, so a relatively young church has a long-serving pastor who leads a contemporary service with “application style” teachings. That the church has been his home for so long is special for a pastor who said he is a “pioneer by heart,” having moved from church to church, building congregations early in his career.
“We always wanted to be a service to the community,” Milcarek said. “What the Lord put in our hearts is to be a giver, not a taker.”
The church was for years home to Back Bay Christian Academy, which began as a preschool in 1998 before becoming a full school two years later that was housed in an additional building where the congregation now holds worship services. The academy ultimately closed after losing students during tough economic times and the opening of the new Kellam High School.
The church, too, has lost membership, going from a height of 250 people to about 100, with a number of families leaving Virginia Beach, but the pastor said the church has committed itself to service and reaching out to the community.
“We need to reach these families,” he said during a sermon on Sunday, Sept. 11. “The children aren’t in church, aren’t in Sunday school the way they used to be.”
Back Bay Christian Assembly is working to grow its Under the Son Christian Daycare, serving newborns to five year olds. And the church maintains an active ministry helping feed people in need in the community, as well as a ministry delivering more than 100 bags of food and supplies to the homeless at the Oceanfront every week. There are other ministries, too, including members of the church who help senior citizens.
The church, affiliated with Assemblies of God Worldwide, is planning how to celebrate its birthday this winter. During a service on Sept. 11, members of the church made music together, watched a video in memory of the Sept. 11 attacks, heard a message from their pastor and shared communion together in the front of the sanctuary.
“The presence of God is here,” worship minister Lisa Bateman of Knotts Island, N.C., said following the service. “We’ve got a lot of faithful people here.”
Linda Etheridge of Back Bay, a member of the church for 16 years, said she loves the people at her church. “They’re so friendly and loving and caring — all of the above. And Pastor Kevin, we just love him.”
© 2016 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC