Former Colts coach to head fundraiser for sanctuary in city
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Long before Tony Dungy coached the Indianapolis Colts to Super Bowl victory, he was the defensive coordinator for the Steelers and a faithful member of Bethany Baptist Church in Homewood.
On Thursday, he and his wife, Lauren, will headline an event to raise money for Bethany's planned new building. This isn't a mega-church seeking to build a cathedral. Bethany, a congregation of 250 that does crucial work in a poor neighborhood, needs to replace a sanctuary that had to be demolished four years ago.
"You want to make the place where you live a better place, and that's what attracted us to Bethany," said Mr. Dungy, who attended from 1982 to 1987 and still goes fishing with some buddies from the congregation.
"The goal at Bethany wasn't just to have a better church, but a better community."
He and Lauren were newlyweds in Scott when they joined Bethany, later moving to Hampton. Living in the suburbs while remaining committed to the inner city remains typical of the church's members.
"We liked that fact that it wasn't a large church. It was intimate, and you got to know everybody," Mr. Dungy said. "It was like a family, a large family. They were committed to outreach and to sharing the gospel. It was a wonderful place to grow as a young married couple and for our kids to grow."
Mike Cephas, a Bethany deacon, has remained close friends with Mr. Dungy since then. "He's very easy to talk to, just down to earth," Mr. Cephas said of Mr. Dungy.
Mr. Dungy played and coached for the Steelers before moving on. His Colts won the Super Bowl in 2007. He's now a football analyst for NBC and a best-selling author of the memoir "Quiet Strength" and the advice book "Uncommon."
He was always noted for his calm, even gentle demeanor and strong faith, which were on moving display in 2005, after the suicide of his 18-year-old son, James. Both before and after their tragedy, the Dungys have engaged in outreach to strengthen other families. The best known of these is the football-themed mentoring program for fathers, All-Pro Dad. The Dungys recently adopted a newborn, their eighth child, and are writing a series of books for young readers about family relationships and problem-solving.
Those interests are a natural fit for Bethany. In 2001 the congregation built a multipurpose center across the street from its sanctuary, for outreach to the community. But in 2008 the 84-year-old sanctuary was in critical need of expensive repairs. Rather than pour money into maintaining it, members demolished the church and began holding services in the multipurpose center.
But that has limited the sports and educational programs Bethany wants to offer in Homewood, a neighborhood where nearly a third of the residents live below the poverty level and 72 percent of households with children are headed by a single parent.
Bethany has continued some signature outreach efforts. The Master's Kitchen serves restaurant-quality meals free to hungry people on Friday nights, and a related food pantry opens twice a month. Church members mentor students at Faison Elementary School. A new program, Girlfriends Together, trains women from the church to mentor the single mothers of some of those students. Kids Under Construction meets on Wednesday nights for dinner, games, Bible stories and other activities.
Once a month, church members march through the neighborhood.
"We go from corner to corner to pray, to talk to people and see what their needs are," said the Rev. William Glaze, Bethany's pastor since 1990. "If there is anything we can do to help them, we bring those needs back to the church."
Plans for the new church call for a no-frills design that is estimated to cost about $1.2 million.
That's less than the multipurpose center cost 11 years ago. The congregation wants to avoid bank loans, and members have pledged $550,000 toward the effort.
"We wouldn't even need a new sanctuary, but this situation has shut down a lot of opportunities we have to minister in the community. Our focus isn't only to build the sanctuary but to open up our multipurpose building to do more ministry," Rev. Glaze said.
"We are looking forward to Tony bringing a message of hope."
Tickets to the 6 p.m. Thursday dinner in Heinz Field's West Club Lounge cost $100. They are available at www.bethanybaptist-pgh.org or by calling Cynthia Corbin at 412-731-8037.
First Published March 4, 2012 12:00 am