A buzzing hurdle can’t stop the 20th anniversary of Bobby’s Backyard Brotherhood Day

Published 8:56 am Wednesday, August 2, 2023

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VALLEY — Some swarming yellow jackets down by the river interfered with plans for this year’s Bobby’s Backyard Brotherhood Day on the River celebration. It didn’t keep it from happening, it just changed the location. Instead of being by the river, the 20-year anniversary celebration took place inside the fellowship hall of Langdale Congregational Christian Church.

Owen Gray, Freeman Parker, W.L. Gillenwaters and William Harry were there to lead the singing, and Elliott reminisced about the day more than 20 years ago now he and five close friends decided to form a prayer group.

At the start, Elliott, Richard Perryman, Charles Hall, Bo Royal and Handley Davis agreed to hold weekly prayer meetings in Elliott’s backyard shop, the site of that first meeting. The subject came up that there were a lot of people in the world, some in their own neighborhoods, who needed someone to pray for them but would not ask for it. The five Christian men decided then and there to pray for anyone and everyone who needed it, whether it be for a health crisis, military service, problems with a loved one or who just needed the Lord to touch their heart.

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When the five men went their separate ways, Elliott said he’d like to keep having these prayer meetings. “I will never forget Richard telling me that he’d like to be back the same time next week,” Elliott said. “That first meeting was on a Tuesday, and we started meeting regularly on Tuesdays.”

As word got around about what was going on in Bobby’s backyard, more men started coming to those Tuesday morning prayer meetings. It quickly outgrew the backyard shop as a meeting place. Elliott then decided to change the site from his backyard shop to the Langdale Congregational Christian Church, where he was the pastor. Participation and prayer requests grew in the ensuing years. Pastors and members of other churches in the Valley area made it a point to be there on Tuesday to pray for anyone in need and for the nation and its leaders in general.

The Covid-19 shutdown halted things for a time, and health problems for the Elliotts kept it from gaining momentum. One dedicated member of the backyard brotherhood, Marc Hicks, played a big part in keeping the prayer group going.

“God is still speaking to us,” he said. “We all know that. We should all be slow to speak, slow to become angry but quick to listen. God can speak to us through the wisdom of other Christians.”

Elliott said there’s one word – love – that’s the key to solving all our problems. “It can’t be said enough,” he said. “Let other people know you love them.”

Of the five men who started the Backyard Brotherhood, Elliott is the only one left. Over the past 20 years, Perryman, Hall. Royal and Davis have passed on. Elliott is 87, has retired from pastoring the church and has stepped aside as the leader of the men’s Tuesday morning prayer group. Joe Guntherberg has taken on that role. Sam Wood is now the pastor at the Congregational Christian Church, and the members are considering a name change. The Langdale Community Church is much easier to say than the present name.

“I’m just glad that what we started back in June of 2003 is still going,” said Elliott. “I’m glad to still come to the meetings when I am able to. Joe is doing a good job, and I  am pleased to see the turnouts we still get on Tuesday mornings.”

At one time, there were 132 local men taking part in the Tuesday morning meetings. In the post-Covid world it’s not at that level now. The door is always open for anyone to come by to attend a Tuesday morning meeting and to talk about what’s on their heart.