BROOKSVILLE — Every city has a history and a story that unfolds through preserved pieces of its past.
Brooksville’s downtown is filled with remnants of a quieter time, when families walked to their neighborhood church on Sundays to worship as a community.
“That’s why churches were, at one time, built inside neighborhoods,” said Pastor Todd Turner of Brooksville First Presbyterian Church. Built in 1883 on Broad Street, where Brooksville Commons now stands, Brooksville First Presbyterian Church catered to the neighborhood, grounding its spiritual following with some of the city’s most notable and influential residents.
In 1951 the church moved to its current location at 250 Bell Avenue. Today the building is one of the most beautifully preserved churches in the city, with original stained glass windows and a charm that expands beyond its historic past.
Encased in a white brick exterior with a façade that beckons passers-by, Brooksville FPC has changed with the times to remain relevant. Under Turner’s guidance, with the support of the congregation’s leadership team, the church revamped its focus to encourage sustained growth.
The approach has doubled church membership and could serve as a model for other places of worship.
“We are building new worship communities,” Turner said.
Two such communities are The Junction, which puts a contemporary spin on traditional Sunday worship; and reFRESH, which is a modernized reformatting to include toe-tapping live music and upbeat sermons.
Society is changing, Turner said, becoming more open to spiritual messages delivered in short powerful bursts. In that context his Sunday and Wednesday sermons are delivered in short segments, offset with music and congregants’ participation.
The Junction, which takes place on Sunday mornings, combines traditional and contemporary themes, blending an informative and entertaining sermon with upbeat music.
The Junction is presented as a typical standardized service, with visitors and church members coming together in the church’s sanctuary to share their faith and beliefs. Children and teens have the option of hearing age-appropriate messages inside classrooms while adults participate in the message delivered by the pastor.
A more eclectic gathering, ReFRESH, is offered on Wednesday evenings as a midweek pickup. The service begins at 6:30 and lasts about an hour.
ReFRESH is a “high-energy worship designed to inspire and energize,” said Turner. Wednesday’s service combines live music by a local band, Remnants Alter, with deep ties to Hernando County and a strong following of fans.
ReFRESH is a casual gathering, Turner said. “Our mantra with ReFRESH is ‘no rules.’ We’re not going to limit ourselves with how church is supposed to be. If we find something people will enjoy that will be fun and will bring a smile to their face, we’re going to try it. And it doesn’t always have to be spiritual.”
Segments of sermons often are better received than traditional spiritual presentations. “At a certain point, you know you’re going to lose them,” Turner said. Keeping sermons short and to the point has proven more effective. “But that doesn’t mean we have to water down the message,” he said.
While Brooksville FPC changes to remain relevant in the community it has served for more than a century, its history is preserved in every brick and stained glass window, as well as relics decorating the church’s walls.
Nostalgic documents are preserved inside frames and eventually will provide a sort of walk down memory lane.
For now, Pastor Todd Turner hopes to spark the curiosity of those who drive by the traditional-looking church. Inside, he said, they will find a deep history, dynamic worship and a clear spiritual purpose.
“Church should be a place where people can come and build relationships,” Turner said. “It’s where they enjoy being together and get something for their lives that will help them live the way they want to live.”
For more information about The Junction and ReFRESH at Brooksville First Presbyterian Church, visit them on Facebook at The Junction at Brooksville FPC and reFRESH at Brooksville FPC.