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Nitro churches to have centennial homecoming services on Sunday

By Ben Calwell, Metro Reporter

Nitro’s year-long centennial celebration continues this week with its annual Boomtown Days festival.

And as part of Boomtown Days, which runs Sept. 8 through 10, a number of Nitro churches will have special homecoming services on Sunday, Sept. 10.

“It’s a welcome back to church Sunday, and it’s part of Boomtown Days,” said Bill Fortune, founder of the Nitro Mission Team.

The church homecoming theme is “Celebrating our past, praying for our future.”

Following homecoming services at the churches, there will be a “Sunday in the Park” event for the community starting at 1 p.m. at Ridenour Lake. It will feature gospel singing performed at the gazebo, as well as a scavenger hunt.

Those attending Sunday in the Park are invited to bring picnic lunches. Ice cream will be furnished.

Fortune said that of the 18 churches that belong to the Nitro Ministerial Association, he expects that 10 to 12 of them will conduct homecoming services at their respective start times on Sept. 10 as part of Boomtown Days. This is the first year that there’s been an organized effort to get churches in the NMA to have homecoming services on the same Sunday.

“If we have all 18, that would be wonderful,” he said. “It’s a way to draw people back into town; we want to make that Sunday as a ‘welcome back home’ type of thing.”

The Rev. Greg Markins of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church said one of the purposes of the homecoming services is to encourage people who, for whatever reasons, have stopped attending church to start attending again.

“We’re also encouraging our congregation to reach out to folks who have moved away and to invite them to join us for homecoming on Sunday,” Markins said.

Pastor Rob VanFossen of the Nitro Church of God, said his church would be participating in homecoming services. He said his congregation always sets aside a block of time on Sundays to pray for the community, including members of the town’s police and fire departments.

“We believe in the redemption of the soul, so we pray for those who are hurting right now, whether it be because of their own problems or because of economic situations. We just pray that God will bless them. This a great community, and there’s a lot of wonderful unity,” VanFossen said.

Charles Mann, representing First Baptist Church in Nitro, said his church would usually have a an event called “Rally Day” on Sunday, with a Rally Day picnic. For the homecoming, though, the church is changing course a bit.

“We’ve decided to make it a homecoming meal under a tent on the church grounds. We sent out a mailing yesterday inviting people back,” Mann said. “That will give us some additional folks who haven’t been in a while.”

First Presbyterian Church in Nitro “is reaching out to former members,” said church member Jim Westlund.

“We have a rich history here in Nitro. I grew up in Nitro and attended First Presbyterian Church since I was a kid. Nitro is a family community, and this (the centennial celebration) is a historical event,” Westlund said.

Jim Workman of Kingdom Life Fellowship Church said his church is newer in the Nitro community.

“We’re only five years old, so we don’t have a whole lot of history and people we can reach back to, but we’re very outreach minded, and we see our partnership with the Nitro Mission Team as a way to expand the outreach into the community,” Workman said.

He said Kingdom Life Fellowship Church, in conjunction with the Nitro Mission Team, participated in a recent school supply drive and backpack giveaway.

“With everybody combined, we were able to bless more than 300 school-age children with school supplies and backpacks,” Workman said. “When all the churches come together, we can do a whole lot more for the community.”

The evening before the church homecomings, on Sept. 9, the Nitro Mission Team is sponsoring one of its biggest events of the year, its annual Italian Feast, from 4 to 6 p.m. at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church on 20th Street.

“All the churches go together, and each church brings an Italian dish. Every church is responsible for whatever that Italian dish may be,” Fortune said. “This is one of our fundraisers for the Nitro Mission Team, and it’s also part of Boomtown Days.”

The Nitro Antique Car Show is also part of the larger Boomtown Days event, Fortune said, and it pre-dates Boomtown Days.

“This will make the 56th year for it,” Fortune said. “That’s the center point of Boomtown Days — it draws a big crowd. It gets bigger and better every year.”

A parade at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 9, will kick off the day’s events. The lineup will be at Pickens Road. The parade will travel down First Avenue to 21st Street.

For more information about Boomtown Days, call the Nitro Convention & Visitors Bureau, 304-721-9800, or send email to Nitrowv.cvb@gmail.com


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