The buttery aroma of hot biscuits swirls about as men socialize and drink coffee in the kitchen of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
When breakfast is ready, they form a circle and, holding hands, offer thanks for their meal and ask blessings for those who are suffering.
Then, biscuits and gravy are served to the 20-plus group during the weekly Men’s Breakfast Fellowship.
The group began in 1992, when men from the church met at Shoney’s Restaurant. The regular meetings moved to the Chimney Corner when the restaurant closed in June 1993 until September, when the men decided to make use of the church’s commercial kitchen and cook their own breakfast.
That’s fine with Clifford White, an Ashlander who joined the church in 1940 and has been a part of the group since almost the beginning.
“I’m known as the biscuit man,” he said, taking a tray of the golden bread from the oven and admitting Pillsbury made the dough. “We have four menus: biscuits and gravy, ham and eggs, pancakes and French toast.”
Herman Roe, David Floyd and Mike Freholm gathered at a table to enjoy the meal and each others’ company. They agreed their favorite breakfast in the rotation is fried eggs and ham, but their favorite aspect of the breakfast is fellowship.
“Business is a minor part,” Floyd of Ashland said. “We send cards to people and every week we make a donation to the fund that we use for charity.”
The men’s group is serious about its role in the church, having helped the youth group finance its trips and purchasing needed items for the church from the offering taken at each breakfast, which also covers the cost of groceries. The group also has helped Shelter of Hope, hosted the Community Prayer Breakfast, worked the Giving Tree during Christmas and hosted sales to help the church with expenses such as vestments for newly ordained ministers sponsored by the congregation.
Funds also have gone to help Camp Wakon Da’Ho, one of the state’s youth camps that serves central and eastern Kentucky.
The church’s pastor, the Rev. Ike Nicholson, said the men have a system for choosing the ministry they support.
“The idea is presented and we are required to wait one week before a vote is taken,” Nicholson said. “That way, every idea is given due consideration and prayer.”
Nicholson said he believes the group helps keep male attendance at his church higher than average: men make up about 45 percent of his congregation and Hartford Seminary figures show the average congregation is 39 percent male.
“I think our growing number of active men has made us a healthier congregation and contributes to our steady growth numerically and spiritually,” he said, noting while church is often considered patriarchal, women outnumber men.
“The church culture and message do not connect well with many men — altar flowers, colorful banners and pictures of flowers on most church bulletins. Many of the songs and messages in the church are about feelings and are rather subjective. Not much teaching in the church is practical,” Nicholson said. “Men tend to be very concrete. Volunteer opportunities that focus on nurture and compassion are not natural for many men.”
He said the breakfast program makes faith and activities more accessible to men and builds a sense of camaraderie and encourages relationships between older and younger men and his church strives to offer those connections to men.
“Sermon illustrations and newsletter articles seek to balance the language and images that are applicable to both men and women,” he said. “Men’s breakfast is one forum at First Ashland that men can connect with God and each other in a way that is meaningful to men. From Men’s Breakfast to Men’s Conferences, we are constantly looking for ways to communicate the church is a place for women, children and men.”
LEE WARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2661.