Thomas Beavers, New Rising Star Church

Thomas Beavers is the pastor of New Rising Star Church in East Birmingham. He is currently leading the process of purchasing Century Plaza Mall with plans to relocate the church there to accommodate future growth.  I sat down with him to learn more about how he reached this milestone.

Beavers explained that over time, he developed this dream to see former Century Plaza Mall revitalized to serve as a hub for the community of East Birmingham. Not only will this property serve as home to New Rising Star Church, but Beavers also plans to start a charter school in the space. The remaining 743,000 square feet of space will be dedicated to nonprofits and other agents of change whose missions align with the church’s.

As his plan has materialized, Beavers has faced many challenges.  Pursuing this dream has demanded a lot of his time and energy, in addition to the normal strains placed on a church pastor.  He compared his experience with Joseph in the Bible.

“He had a dream and he told his dream to his brothers, and the moment he opened his mouth was the moment he started going through all of these trials. But inevitably, his trouble was transportation to the fulfillment of his dream.  Everything that seemed bad was really pushing him to where God said he would be,” said Beavers.

New Rising Star Church has always been a part of his life. Beavers grew up in the church under the leadership of his grandfather, Tommy Chappell, who pastored for 35 years. Following his grandfather’s retirement, Beavers stepped in as pastor in 2010.

At Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School, Beavers wrote his doctoral dissertation on Biblical pastoral transitions. That enabled him to transition smoothly into the role of pastor, moving forward along the path his grandfather had paved.

I asked Beavers if he always knew he wanted to preach. He looked up with a sheepish smile and chuckled to himself, saying, “I got a lot of preachers in my family and I always said, ‘I never want to preach.’”

Despite Beavers’ defiance, the Lord got his attention.

“I was in four car wrecks in three months.   In every car wreck I walked out of the car without a scratch on my body, and I could hear God telling me, ‘I’m calling you to preach, ’” said Beavers.

Beavers originally went to Kentucky State University on a basketball scholarship with plans to become a doctor. Over time, though, he realized that he didn’t have the passion to succeed in medical school, and chose seminary at Beeson instead.  As he accepted the call to preach, his fear was dispelled by peace.

I attended his church one Sunday and I was amazed by the warm welcome I received, as well as the joy that erupted from the congregation’s unified praise. I sat by Beaver’s secretary, Carol Hatcher, who turned to me during Beavers’ sermon and remarked, “The pastor I see behind the pulpit is the same pastor I see day after day.”

Pastor Beavers is a charismatic leader who is passionate about growing his church while also expanding the church’s influence in the city of Birmingham. You can read more about Pastor Beavers and the story of New Rising Star Church in the upcoming Spring issue of The Local.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rising Sports: Birmingham Bulls

In fall 2017, Birmingham will again be a home to a professional hockey team.

Art Clarkston, the former Birmingham Bulls owner, signed an agreement with the Pelham Civic Coomplex and Ice Arena in February to host the team. He wishes to keep the same name and logo.

The Bulls will join the 10-team Southern Professional Hockey League, including the Huntsville Havoc. The hockey team formerly played in the World Hockey Association from 1976-79 and the Central Hockey League from 1979-81.

Clarkston owned the Bulls for six years, between 1992-98. They played their East Coast Hockey League games at the Birimngham-Jeffereson Convention Complex during that time, a location that Clarkson and the Bulls initially wanted to stay at for the 2017-18 season.

BJCC representatives say they were in discussion with Clarkson, but have not had any more communication with him regarding certain decisions.

There would have to be intensive and quick work in order for the complex to be ready for the upcoming season. The Pelham Civic Complex, though, is already set up to host hockey games. UAB and the University of Alabama’s club hockey teams play at the complex, which seats 3,200. The contract between the complex and the Bulls will require only 800 seats to be put in.

When the Bulls played in the 1970s, hockey was going through a rollercoaster of popularity. As minor pro leagues shut down, the NHL was gaining traction. Birmingham residents were more curious in the sport than interested in it.

“The Phantom of the Opera” is here… inside Birmingham

Photo from https://www.flickr.com/photos/eschipul/4702637227 through Creative Commons

The Broadway classic “The Phantom of the Opera” will grace the stage of the BJCC Concert Hall April 5-16.

Produced by Cameron Mackintosh,  directed by Laurence Connor and overseen by Matthew Bourne, the North American tour presents the musical tale like never before. New costumes, design elements, lighting and staging have been implemented to create an updated version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s esteemed masterpiece.  It features a 52-person cast and orchestra as well as full creative team bringing the drama to the United States. Experience your favorite Phantom, Christine and company moments in a whole new light for two weeks only.

The musical is part of Theatre League’s annual Broadway in Birmingham lineup at the BJCC. It is the last show of the 2016-2017 series before the new series picks up in December. Other acclaimed shows from the past season included “Broadway Christmas Wonderland”, “Dirty Dancing”and “Once”. “The Book of Mormon” will also play as a season add-on in October.

Tickets start as low as $50 and range up to $600 depending on date and seating choice. For more information about ticketing,  the Birmingham production of “The Phantom of the Opera” or the upcoming season, visit http://theaterleague.com/birmingham.

Rising Sports: Magic City Blitz Basketball

For over 70 years the NBA has reigned over the basketball world. But did you know that there is another professional basketball league?

The American Basketball Association was founded in 1967 and has continued to redevelop the game of basketball during its existence. In fact, the ABA introduced the three-point shot as well as slam-dunk contests into the basketball world.

Since innovation is a core value of Birmingham, it makes sense that the city would be home to one of these pioneering teams, so in 2011 Birmingham welcomed the Magic City Blitz. The team was 3-3 in Gulf Coast conference play during their 2016 season.

The ABA organization is not new to the Magic City. The Birmingham Magicians played two seasons in the city and folded in 2006.

30th Street Cakes Now Open

“Ring by Spring”, a common phrase thrown around on the local campus of Samford University. The idea that many graduating seniors will be engaged by  their spring semester has led engaged Samford senior Mary Michael Maddox to capitalize on the phenomenon, and her passion for baking, and open up her very own local wedding cake company. 30th Streets Cakes officially launched March 2 in the kitchen of Mary Michael’s little apartment in Highland Park.

 

After years of helping her mom out in the kitchen of their family farmhouse in Dothan, Alabama, her daily rituals became her youthful passion which has now led to the start of her first business as she begins the journey of “adulting”. Mary Michael believes in the essence of celebration and strives to create a cake worthy for anyone’s BIG day or  anything else worth celebrating. In her biography online she talks about the abundance of celebrations and parties her family threw growing up, she says, “basically anything you can think of, we threw a party for. And when there was a party, there was a cake.”

Mary Michael’s love for the small and simple details of a celebration are visibly seen in her work. Her cakes are simple and elegant with whimsical strokes of frosting laced with wild botanicals. “I believe that our generation has moved passed the desire for perfect elegant cakes and more towards the desire for the natural and simple look.” She finds joy in not only the finished product but also in the process of creating a cake, an art of sorts.  “My goal is to create more of an artisanal style of cake.” says, Mary Michael.

If you are throwing an upcoming party or looking for the perfect wedding cake, send Mary Michael an email or stop by her website: www.30thstreetcakes.com. She would love to sit down with you over a good cup of coffee and talk celebrations.

My Magic Sity Success: Brandon Cain

This is the second installment of a three-part series that explores the nature of successful businessmen and women in Birmingham.

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“Find a mentor. Learn from their mistakes and successes. Then, find someone to pour into and ‘make a deposit in their emotional bank account.'”

As the chef and co-owner of Post Office Pies, Saw’s Soul Kitchen and Roots & Revelry, Brandon Cain has gone through the trials and triumphs of running a successful business. With elite culinary training, Cain worked under some of Birmingham’s nest chefs and learned as much as he could before stepping out into the industry on his own in 2009. He recalled sleepless nights and countless hours of creating, refining and polishing plans that have evolved into restaurants filled with culture that keeps customers coming back for more.

Cain and best friend John Hall dreamed up Post Office Pies, and when Hall returned to Birmingham from working at New York City pizza restuarants, they began putting their plan into action.

“We are just gourmet chefs that want to make an honest pizza,” Cain said. And with the dream in mind, Cain has followed some fundamental guidelines that have helped him build successful restaurants over the years.

Developing a business plan can be overwhelming and daunting. But whether it’s finding a template online or creating one from scratch, the business plan will be the most important material you can have when going to the bank, Cain said. Using this plan, demonstrate to the bank that you are a trustworthy client that is prepared to take the next step. Businesses can succeed or fail, and banks are a deciding factor in the beginning phase, so maintain a good relationship with your bank.

As you get farther along into the process, you will also have to seriously realize the cost.

“Once you get funded, it becomes fun and stressful at the same time,” Cain said. Sometimes he wasn’t able to afford the whole dream all at once, and he was OK with that. As you work out what is within your means, you can start physically structuring and maneuvering parts of the business to create your vision.

Especially if you’re in the food industry (or looking to get into it) inspections are a big hurdle that business owners have to get over before the doors open. Therefore, you need to go to the city officials early. Sending in paperwork and making sure everything is up to code early prevents mishaps from occurring later in the process.

“If you can have the city on your side, then you’re 50 percent of the way there,” Cain said. He also noted that while the first time you go through this process it feels personal, it’s not, and the officials are doing their best to create a safe environment.

Once a business is up and running, staying close to the core of the project can be tricky. In some instances, Cain has had to fight his corporate business sense in order to keep the culture of the restaurant in tact, even if it means spending an extra hour peeling the skins off tomatoes or making pizza dough from scratch. These basic measures preserve the authenticity so that when customers walk into the restaurant, they feel like they’re in a neighborhood pizza place.

“The culture is what everyone’s buying into,” he said. “All people care about is a good time and a good quality product that is consistent.”

Establishing a reliable atmosphere will comfort customers, who know they will have a better experience each time they come back. “Trust is the biggest thing in growing our brand,” Cain said. He strives to push Post Office Pies as well as his other restaurants to improve their technique and efficiency each day they serve the community.

Birmingham Without Walls

Proximate

Hollie Woodis, a student at Samford University, said she was given insight to a different perspective of homeless by sheer happenstance.

“My boss went out of town and asked me to run errands while he was gone,” Woodis said. “He asked me to run a check to the post office.”

But the trip that was supposed to be a straight-shot to the post office took a turn that Woodis did not expect. That was the day she met a Birmingham citizen living without a home.

“I saw a man walking on the side of the road,” she said, “and he had his big bag and was looking down on himself, like he wanted a ride.”

Woodis picked up the man, whose name she later learned was Lonny Williams, and gave him a ride to the post office.

“Our relationship formed out of that,” she said. “I gave him my number and he calls me when he needs a ride, usually to the post office or to his nephew’s house.”

When Woodis was confronted with this image of homelessness—one that she said she had never seen before—it gave her the opportunity to view homelessness differently. Woodis said it was this personal relationship with a member of the houseless community that allowed her to combat houselessness in Birmingham—not through ministry or activism, but through simple understanding and friendship.

Mallory Pettet, who works with homeless people in Five Points recalls a conversation she had with a local activist. “One thing he told me that raised my hair is this: ‘In order to change the narrative we have cast, we must proximate ourselves with the parts of our city that are broken,’” Pettet said.

“We just want to know them,” Hannah Baker said. “So many [of the homeless] are so broken and are so willing to admit ‘I did wrong, I made a mistake and now I’m stuck.’ It’s not because they are a different kind of people. There is just a lot of hopelessness in trying to get out of that.”

This is the final installment of a five-part series. 

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Birmingham Without Walls

Homeless in Birmingham

Hamilton-Schumacher frequently tells the story of the best newspaper seller he ever met.

“If all our time invested in The Voice came down to one story and one life that was changed, this would justify it all,” he said.

“The story is of this man that came to us. I don’t remember his name,” Hamilton-Schumacher said. “He was a builder—a contractor—living paycheck to paycheck.

“He came from up north and all of his jobs were numbers in his phone and he lost his phone one day. And losing his phone created a snowball effect. This guy who had been his primary contact wasn’t able to communicate with him and probably interpreted his silence as the inability to follow up on a job.

“He lost his work and was evicted from his apartment. Because he had no money coming in, he lost his car insurance. Since he was no longer able to drive it, he sold it because he needed cash. He eventually ended up on the streets. And he is a skilled builder that—because of the loss of his phone—ended up on the streets.”

Hamilton said those circumstances play out over and over; one mistake or one slip sentences people to years of poverty to be served on a street corner or in transitional housing. In the city of Birmingham, the rate of unemployment is 5.4, comparable to 5.0 in Atlanta and 5.2 in New York and a half a percentage point higher than the national average.

“I feel that homelessness is systemic and there are not only current but also historical events that have led to what we are experiencing today,” Hamilton-Schumacher said. “There are individuals in this city who are living paycheck to paycheck.

This is the fourth installment of a five-part series. 

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Birmingham Without Walls

A Voice for the Homeless

Ryan Hamilton-Schumacher and his wife, Hope, noticed a hole in Birmingham. When the couple relocated to Birmingham from Nashville in 2009, they noticed a clear division between two communities in the city.

“We recognized the privilege that we didn’t earn, but were born into,” Hamilton-Schumacher said. “That privilege unfairly gave us a larger voice than others.”

The computer programmer and his wife, a doula, decided to fill that hole by creating a newspaper catering to Birmingham’s homeless community.

“We wanted to provide a medium for those who didn’t have a voice to have a voice, whether it was creative writing, poetry, drawing or reporting on occurrences in the city,” Hamilton-Schumacher said.

The street paper, aptly named The Voice, was a carefully designed business model intended to lead Birmingham’s impoverished citizens back into the work force.

“What we saw as a problem was that if you’re experiencing homelessness, it’s difficult to earn a job. Employers ask for all these key pieces of information that someone who is homeless will not have,” Hamilton-Schumacher said.

“So, this was an avenue to reintroduce individuals to the job market. We wanted to be able to provide some infrastructure to their work and help them earn their own money. They also have someone to put as a reference. We say it is a tool to help individuals pursue other jobs.”

Hamilton-Schumacher said that combatting homelessness begins with employing people who are experiencing homelessness. According to Hamilton-Schumacher, the inability to maintain a reliable source of income aggravates the cycle of homelessness.

“There is a large community of people in the religious community that want to help homeless and houseless people, with all the best intentions in the world,” he said, “but the issue of homelessness cannot be solved just by giving money and feeding people. You can’t rent an apartment, pay for food and send your children to daycare while working at McDonald’s. There is no way to survive. You have to get more than one job, but you won’t be there for your family.”

This is the third installment of a five-part series. 

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Green Eggs in the ‘Ham: Gyro Edition

Birmingham is a city filled with history, culture, and food. While we’re not complaining that new restaurants open around town all the time, it’s hard to choose where to eat when there are countless options right in front of you. But don’t worry! The Local is here to help you find the most authentic and trendiest spots to grab a bite the next time you’re looking to eat out.

gyro
Original Gyro, Glory Bound Gyro Co.

Greek food in the South can be hard to come by, but Glory Bound Gyro Co. brings its Mediterranean twist right to Birmingham. Owners, Will Taylor and Chris McDonald, found inspiration for this Mediterranean-style restaurant while traveling in Greece. It’s been a hit since they opened the first Glory Bound in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in 2009.  

Glory Bound opened in downtown Birmingham during the summer of 2015 right along the new Rotary Trail corridor. The blend between Mediterranean dishes and American concepts create familiar recipes, and the open, light atmosphere draws customers in.

“Our uniqueness in this kind of business really sets us apart,” said manager Parker Smith.

So what should you get? If you are new to the gyro game, then the Original Gyro is for you. The lamb and beef filled tortilla is topped with lettuce, onions, and tzatziki sauce.  The meat and sauce pair well together as you get a blend of both sweet and savory flavors, creating a simplistic taste that will leave you wanting more.

If you’re adventurous with your food, the award-winning Pepperjack Gyro is sure to call your name. Topped with bacon, pepper jack cheese, and comeback sauce, this gyro will surely never disappoint.

Have you found a restaurant that you think we should try? Email us at hdiamond@samford.edu.