Growing Up at Broadway

by Emily Young Lemley

As my brother said when he was a toddler, “I was born going to that church.” Broadway was my parents’ first ministry, so my first twelve years were spent at the Broadway church. At church I felt totally loved by the whole world (don’t worry, I know better now). But back then, Broadway was my world, and it was known for its magnanimous, open-handed spirit. What a blessed beginning!

I lived at the building. Sitting on the second row on the west side, watching my beautiful mother sing joyfully during at least 3 services a week– I was in the place I belonged. Coming early and staying late, waiting, waiting, waiting on parents who would not stop listening and talking and encouraging each person who stayed to talk. I watched the listening and loving. I didn’t always know what was going on in the lives of people they talked to, but I knew the safety and help of the love in that building.

Broadway was a place for Bibles (it still is). My mother taught at least twice a week, always holding her Bible, notes of all sizes spilling out, reading the Scripture outloud to her audience. My Dad preached at least 3 times a week, always holding his Bible, neatly typed pages, 3-hole punched, that fit exactly into his Bible, reading the Scripture out loud to his audience and praying a blessing over the hearers. Older and younger people who came in the doors of Broadway brought their own Bibles, often worn and written in, and they touched their finger to their tongue to turn the pages to the book and verse that the speaker read. They marked it with a visitors’ card to go back to it later, to read it again. What a blessed memory!

Two or three times a year, Broadway hosted “gospel meetings.” That meant 24/7 in the building– breakfast with the guest speaker for people on their way to work, a 10am in-depth class for anyone who could come, lunch with the speaker and any friends you wanted to bring, and an inspirational evening service, calling for turning your life around. Even though, I was mostly running up and down the aisles and playing hide-n-seek with Glynn Coffman and our brothers (we once hid in a bathroom and couldn’t get out–our parents went home and we were left in the dark!) I knew intuitively that these days were focused, intense, hope-filled, inclusive.

Several families always hosted the guest speaker. Ours was one, and it was usually late at night when we had a full living room over to “fellowship.” The talk was about how to encourage spiritual growth, about answered prayers and about funny ministry or travel stories. Everyone laughed long and often! Those evenings were when I learned that the people up front were not “stars.” They worried about all the troubles of the world, just like everybody else. They wept and laughed. Those nights always ended with sincere and loving prayer, many of the guests on their knees. How do I know this? I was hiding behind the biggest chair in the room, having silently slipped out of bed to hear what was going on. So I know.

When I think of growing up at Broadway, I think of relationships not requirements. I didn’t feel the typical Preacher’s Kid responsibility of perfection because I didn’t feel watched. I was included. The teenagers who had been my babysitters when I was a toddler talked to me, the local hardware store manager took me to see the long electric train in the store window, a farmer’s family took me home for the day and let me gather eggs in the chicken coup or drive their tractor, couples who had no children adopted me for a weekend, and I begged to spend the night with my friend at the Childrens’ Home. I was part of a big diverse family!

My parents always pointed out Sister Macdonald and Sister Shepherd, strong women who visited and took care of everyone, and Brother (Liff) Sanders, Lubbock’s pioneer preacher, and Brother Raleigh Martin– I shook their hand. People who did good were the ones honored most highly. My Sunday School teachers who worked on displays—an exact miniature replica of the Jerusalem temple–who were so creative that they were asked to teach other Sunday School teachers around the country how to do it, were the heroes talked about. That spirit of honor lingers.

I’ve heard many stories very different from mine– of growing up in congregations where gossip ruled and words cut children’s hearts. And that makes me sad. But I’m not ashamed to say that growing up Broadway was an undeserved gift of love and hope. I want to give that gift to the children I meet in church. I know you do too.

One Response to “Growing Up at Broadway”

  1. Carole Compton says:

    Loved hearing your experiences growing up at Broadway and being the daughter of Novel & Helen Young. You are a fortunate young lady among many good strong Christians. Love you & miss you.

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