First Baptist welcomes all with bluegrass, barbecue

Betsy PickleOur Town Arts, South Knox

Bluegrass music and barbecue are familiar partners in this neck of the woods. So it makes sense that a downtown church wanting to get to know its neighbors would plug them in to a community-wide party.

First Baptist Church of Knoxville, 510 W. Main St., is hosting Bluegrass, BBQ & More from 5-7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26, on its front lawn. The church also obtained permission to close off Main Street between Locust and Walnut streets to make room for table seating and a lineup of food trucks.

This isn’t the church’s first rodeo, er, barbecue. But with Sunday’s event, First Baptist is making an extra effort to involve the neighborhoods closest to it – downtown and South Knoxville.

The Tenos, a family band from Clinton, will provide music for Bluegrass, BBQ & More on Sunday at First Baptist Church downtown.

“This year we are really trying to focus on making our community feel welcome to come and join us,” says Susan Tatum, FBC minister to children and families. “It (Bluegrass & BBQ) has always been open to anyone. But with the food trucks and the type of (music) we are having, we are hoping to further our outreach to the downtown community.”

The new and improved event aligns with the enthusiasm brought by Dr. Brent McDougal, who has been FBC’s senior pastor for about 10 months. He and his wife, Jen, live downtown and love it.

“We’re trying to make this more than just a church-wide picnic,” says Tatum. “That comes from Brent’s vision that we’re all trying to explore, and that is to reach these families, these couples, these young adults that are downtown or that come downtown for events, and create an environment where they will want to come and be a part of this.”

A crowd enjoys a past Bluegrass & BBQ event at First Baptist Church, 510 W. Main St.

First Baptist is also heavily involved with volunteering at South Knoxville Elementary School, just across the river. The historic church, organized in 1843 and at home in its Main Street building since 1924, helps with mentoring, gardening, workdays and more at the school.

Bluegrass music will be provided by The Tenos, a Clinton-based family musical group that has performed for years at East Tennessee events and venues.

Food trucks, a popular part of Knoxville’s dining-out scene, are a new addition to the event. They will sell barbecue and other dinner options along with ice cream, fried pies and other dessert treats.

Tatum says that because Bluegrass, BBQ & More is outside, masks will not be required. However, the church will encourage social distancing and have hand-sanitizing stations, and people who want to wear masks should feel comfortable doing so.

Attendees can also bring their own lawn chairs and blankets to spread out on the lawn.

Tatum says the event is about showing love and hospitality to the nearby communities and beyond.

“There’s no message,” she says, “just music and food.”


Betsy Pickle is a veteran freelance writer and editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *