By Amanda Boston

In 1965, a group of members from First Baptist Church of Brandon broke ground on five acres located on the ‘south side’ of Brandon to create the Southside Baptist Mission. On Mother’s Day in 1966, Southside opened its doors to the community with its first worship service. Pastor James Shearer led the service in a bare bones building with concrete floors and no air-conditioning.

Marilyn Lucas was among the 61 persons who attended its first worship service in 1966. She said, “We had furniture handed down from four other churches, no cushions and lots of splinters. There were no classrooms—just two rooms in the back for the nursery. It was quite a noise in the building that day.”

On September 10, 1967, Southside Baptist was officially constituted as a church. A half a century later, Lucas is still a member at Southside and is on the church’s anniversary planning committee. Lucas, along with several committee members, is working diligently to plan a 50-year anniversary celebration on Sunday, September 10 at 10 a.m.
Lucas said, “It has truly been a privilege and honor to serve my church for these 50 years. We hope any past members who are reading this will call the church and let us know they are coming.”

The festivities will begin with a memories program, which will include former pastors Pete Vandeweghe and Chad Driggers as speakers. Dr. Tommy Green, the Executive Director-Treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention will also speak during the presentation. Southside Baptist plans to recognize former music and youth ministers with special music. The celebration will conclude with a catered lunch where friends both from the past and present can mingle.

In honor of its 50th anniversary, the church began an outreach called VBS @ The Park this summer. For years, Southside has offered a summer Vacation Bible School on its property. However, instead of bringing the community to its campus like previous years, the church took VBS to the community. Youth Minister Ricky Holder and his army of volunteers held VBS at Heather Lakes Park and Bertha and Tony Sandino Park in Brandon.

When Holder was asked about the success of VBS @ The Park, he said, “It’s not about numbers because that’s not an accurate way of looking at it. But as far as getting a presence out in the neighborhood and with these families, that’s what we are really going for, and I feel we have been successful in that.”

For more information on the church or the upcoming celebration, visit southsidebrandon.org. To contact the church, email info@southsidebrandon.org or call 689-6049. Southside Baptist Church is located at 415 W. Lumsden Rd. in Brandon.