Praise and Pizza-a Friday night service at Baldwinsville UMC
“People need to remember that there are six-and-a half other days of the week.” This is what Albany and Adirondack District Superintendent, the Rev. Debbie Earthrowl said about the opportunity to worship at Baldwinsville UMC’s “Praise and Pizza” Friday night worship services that began in July.
Praise and Pizza is a casual service offered in Baldwinsville UMC’s chapel and is hosted by the Rev. Bill Mudge and Nairobi O. Smith. The service runs from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Nairobi provides worship music with her acoustic guitar; Rev. Mudge or a guest preacher delivers an inspiring message, and pizza, salad and drinks are served!
How did this idea come about?
Rev. Mudge recognized that the church’s Sunday traditional service was very important to the members and very impressive.
Rev. Mudge said, “We have a tremendous music ministry; I want any service offered here to be done with excellence and that is what our Sunday morning service offers. I want people to still be able to enjoy the giftedness of our musicians like Nancy James and our organist Maryann Myles.”
Rev. Mudge expressed that he wanted to keep that service that grew digitally during the pandemic, but also, wanted to provide another opportunity for people to worship in a casual and contemporary style.
When talking to his administrative council about this idea of a casual service offered on Friday nights, he said, “This is an opportunity for folks of all ages and for some who want to connect with others and aren’t interested in the bar scene. This is here for folks who may not even realize what they hungry for.”
Church member Shelly Hoffman, chimed in and mentioned how a church she knew in Pittsburgh offered a similar service, and they would say, “Before you go to the bars, come worship with us.”
Baldwinsville’s administrative council approved of the idea.
Enter Nairobi O. Smith. Nairobi is a talented musician well-known throughout the Upper New York Conference. Rev. Mudge has known Nairobi since she was a little girl and told her from a young age, “Someday we are going to do ministry together.”
Nairobi said that she approached Rev. Mudge a year and a half ago and said, “Were you serious about doing ministry together?” He said he was.
When they started planning how to collaborate; COVID-19 changed the world as we know it. Nairobi and others helped to equip Baldwinsville UMC to be able to offer online and livestreamed worship services and offered her music as well.
And now she and Rev. Mudge are offering Praise and Pizza together. While the ministry is small now with around 10 people in attendance each week, Rev. Mudge and Nairobi as well as guest preachers are really enjoying the time.
Nairobi said, “My favorite part of this service is the people. It’s nice to see faithful people each week and connect with them, to find out how their trip they went on was.”
Rev. Earthrowl travels from afar as often as she can to attend this service. She said, “This is a great opportunity for pastors. As clergy, we don’t get many opportunities to worship together with our schedules. This is the perfect opportunity.