FBC Brunswick: New Life in a Historic Church

Top view of hand holding teal ribbon on dark background with copy space. Cervical and ovarian cancer, sexual assault, pcos, ptsd, anxiety disorder, agoraphobia and scleroderma awareness concept.

By Ben McBride

BRUNSWICK, Md. — Brunswick is a small town along the Potomac River in Frederick County, Maryland. The town was built as a massive railway hub and still hosts the MARC train to Washington, D.C. Found in this historic town, is the 117-year-old First Baptist Church of Brunswick, led by Senior Pastor Phil Graves. According to Graves, the church was founded in 1906, and the current building was completed in 1908 after the railroad donated land to build the church. With a century of rich history and ministry behind them, the church has had periods of growth, excitement, discouragement, and challenge. There’s new life and unique ministry happening in the old building, and they’ve seen eight baptisms so far this year.

FBC Brunswick is engaging their “small-town America” community with the gospel. (Photo by Ben McBride)

Graves stepped into the pulpit as pastor in November 2011. He says, “When I started here, there were 15 people most Sundays. Now we are regularly in the 40s and 50s.”

He thanks God for the increase and for sending people who are faithful and hardworking. Graves says one of those individuals is Family Pastor Justin Wyckoff, saying, “Justin is the right person at the right time” and “Justin is the most equipped person to lead the youth. He has a completely different background from me which allows us to relate to a variety of people.”

Wyckoff has expanded youth ministry throughout the week by starting a new teen center. He also opened a sound studio where local artists could come and record. The church used a State Missions Offering (SMO) Grant to start the center and studio.

When discussing the youth outreach, Graves said, “Justin has the teen center open throughout the week, and it makes the church more of a community center instead of ‘just a church.’”

The teen center includes a foosball and air hockey table, ping pong, multiple video games, board games, and a snack shack serving low-cost nachos, hot dogs, chips, candy, and drinks. It’s open from 2:30 –  6 pm to all middle and high school youth.

FBC Brunswick is a historical church building on the foundations of saints through the years. (Photo by Ben McBride)

Regarding the studio, Graves said, “Pastor Justin loves audio equipment and has put together and procured most of it. He had an idea to use it as a ministry tool, as studio time is expensive; it gives aspiring musicians affordable rates in an effort to reach out and can also help bring in musicians and people interested in doing audio to the church.”

The funds from the studio will be used to build a separate building for the teen center that will be accessible to those with disabilities.

The church has a solid commitment to disability ministry. Graves, and his wife, Kristie, adopted two daughters affected by disabilities — Elliana from Armenia and Brizzy from Ukraine. (Phil and Kristie traveled to Ukraine shortly after the Russian invasion to complete the adoption and bring Brizzy to her new home).

More New Ministries
Many others have stepped up to start and lead new ministries, and that’s exactly what Phil wants. The church has movie nights, Sunday Fundays, and reverse Halloween (going out to give candy and other goodies).

FBC’s Teen Center cafe area. (Photo by Ben McBride)

He says, “Church shouldn’t be transactional. Christianity isn’t ‘Hey, bring your friends to me, and I witness.’ It’s meant for you to go out and preach the gospel to your friends.” Phil strives to do this by equipping the church with the tools they need to go out and preach the gospel in their lives. He encourages his members to start a ministry they think could be beneficial to the church and surrounding area.

Another way the church is engaging their community is by allowing outside groups to use the building — including Alcoholics Anonymous and American Sign Language classes. They’re looking for more.

Through these ministries, Phil hopes the community realizes, “The church is not out to get them.” In fact, Phil wants to encourage a family-like atmosphere at FBC Brunswick, saying, “We are striving to be a group of people that actively live together and support each other as a community, not just church members but friends.” Sharing his vision of the church, he says Brunswick wants to be known for “Having people to do life together.”

Go Down to the River
The community has been responding to the outreaches, and Phil is excited about the increase in baptisms. He says, “The Potomac River is right next to the church. We

Ashley Littleton (l) with Associate Pastor Justin Wyckoff and Tony Selgas. (Photo courtesy of FBC Brunswick)

give people a choice between getting baptized at the church or in the river near the local boat ramp. Even though we do it after our regularly scheduled church (service), everybody still comes down to the river to see the baptisms.”

Phil allows those being baptized to choose the most influential person in their walk with Christ to perform the ordinance. He emphasizes that baptisms are another important step in individuals’ lives toward sharing the gospel with others — continuing to equip those in the church to use their gifts for God’s kingdom. As more people are brought in from the community through these programs, Graves hopes the church continues to grow by fostering these relationships. He also hopes that people continue to seek out ministry opportunities. Graves says he wants to have ministries people want to lead.

Ben McBride served with the BCM/D as a summer intern. He is a junior majoring in communications and media studies at Stetson University

Feature Photo: Associate Pastor Justin Wyckoff baptizes Dylan Mueller. (Photo courtesy of FBC Brunswick)