Batavia Brotherhood Banquet brings men together to share faith
Many churches have groups where men come together for fellowship and to share their faith. You'll often find churches offering a men's breakfast or an early morning Bible study.
In Batavia, men of all Christian denominations have been coming together annually to share in fellowship and faith for the past 51 years.
"In the 1960s, each church had its own men's group," said Bob Nelson of Bethany Lutheran Church. "Then Lafe Hall of the First Baptist Church came up with the idea of having a banquet for all men of Christian faith to come together for fellowship."
In 1969, the first Batavia Brotherhood Banquet was held.
Nelson, Bob Dahlstrom and Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke have been involved in the Brotherhood Banquet since the beginning.
Part of the original concept was to give the pastors a night off.
"The pastors were honored at the banquet, with each one being introduced by a member of their church," Nelson said. "Although we do ask one of them to give the blessing and the invocation."
A committee starts meeting in late summer to plan the annual event, which is always held in February.
In the early days, the banquet was known as the Batavia Union Brotherhood Banquet and was held at different churches. Now it is limited to Holy Cross and Immanuel Lutheran, since they have space that is large enough to accommodate the group.
"We usually have between 200 and 250 in attendance," said Elvin Harms, this year's committee chairman.
Throughout the years, there have been a variety of speakers who have addressed the group, many who have had connections to Batavia. Batavia sports stars Kenny Anderson, who was the quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals, and Danny Issel, who played for and coached the Denver Nuggets, have both come back to speak.
Ken Ramsey, the former Kane County Sheriff who now serves as a deacon at Holy Cross, has also given testimony. Newscaster Russ Ewing and singer Wayne Messmer have spoken to the group as well.
Schielke has addressed the group four times and will speak at the next banquet Tuesday, Feb. 18.
"We make him come back every 12 years," joked Nelson.
The mayor's topic will be "Batavia -- Crossroads of Community and Faith." He has collected some interesting stories to share.
There often is special music at the banquet as well. I was invited to sing years ago when the speaker was Father Max Striedl, a Catholic priest from Rockford who grew up in Batavia.
The Batavia Brotherhood Banquet is more than just an evening of listening to a speaker or inspirational music.
"The banquet is about small town connections," Nelson said. "It's about encouraging friendships across religions and sharing in fellowship and faith."
If you goWhat: Batavia Brotherhood Banquet
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18
Where: Holy Cross Parish, 2300 Main St., Batavia
Tickets: $20 ($22 online including processing fees)