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Providing a Space: First Fridays at First Baptist

Ian Mevorach, former associate pastor at First Baptist Church, Jamaica Plain, MA

The inspiration to start First Fridays Youth Open Mic came to me early in my ministry. It was at First Baptist Jamaica Plain in August 2011, only a few weeks after I started there as Minister of Christian Formation and Outreach. I wanted to create a context in which youth could put their best selves forward—that is, express their ideals, dreams, and values—and find the support not only of peers and caring adults, but of God.  After the first open mic, I found a partner congregation, and together we forged the following mission statement:

First Fridays is a collaborative project of the First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain and the JP Church (Christian Scientist). It is a safe space for youth (covering a broad age-range) to share their talents and perspectives, and experiment with various forms of artistic expression.
First Fridays is a public venue where people of all faiths and identities are welcome to be themselves and to be accepted for who they are. It is also a place of intercultural and interracial conversation and relationship-building, where youth and adults can process their struggles in life, share their faith, dreams, and ideals, and learn more about issues of social, economic, and environmental justice.

With all that, it is simply somewhere for youth and people of all ages to come on a Friday night to have a good time.

Over the months our featured performances have included authors and poets from Books for Hope (a youth literacy empowerment project), Boston University’s Inner Strength Gospel Choir, Ritmo en Accion (a dance troupe of Hyde Square Task Force, a youth-focused non-profit in Jamaica Plain), the Boston Latin School Step Squad, Reggae musicians, rappers, folk singers, and slam poets. Besides our featured performers the open mic has included numerous spoken word performances, small musical ensembles, testimonies, spiritual songs, comedy routines, etc. We have also had meaningful partnerships with youth groups from area health centers who have helped us organize open mics on the themes of ending violence against women and HIV awareness and prevention. A number of area restaurants have also consistently donated delicious food for our guests.

Through this ministry over 100 youth, ranging from 13 to 25, who would never have entered our church otherwise, have been given a safe and fun place to hang out on a Friday night and express themselves creatively with the support of all present. One performer who attended two of our open mics first introduced himself as someone not used to being in a church. He rapped a piece in Spanish about his cousin who had been murdered, which included his vow to stay off the streets and make it to college one day.  This particular young man had not had any other opportunity to perform this song. The next time he came to the open mic, after performing the same piece (and one other one), he surprised me by asking if he could have the mic because he wanted to “preach something.” He said, “One thing I know, you’ve got to have faith.” 

For more information, contact Ian Mevorach [email protected]. Ian recently completed his ministry at First Baptist in Jamaica Plain and is now working with the American Baptist Churches of MA to plant a new church in Natick, MA

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