Two area churches relocate campuses

Published 5:00 am Monday, July 20, 2009

Members of Mt. Wade Missionary Baptist and Central Baptistchurches have come together to celebrate the successful completionof a five-year-old property transaction that will allow both housesof worship to expand their missions.

Central Baptist has sold its campus on North Jackson Street toMt. Wade and will begin holding services in the old ProgressiveMen’s Shop on Whitworth Avenue on Aug. 2. The church expects tostay downtown for 12 to 18 months while a new campus is constructedon approximately 12 acres of land off Highway 550, near King’sDaughters Medical Center.

Mt. Wade, meanwhile, expects to begin renovations and minoradjustments to the former Central Baptist campus in early August.The church will eventually move its services and community programsto the new campus, but will also continue to operate its old campuson Ingram Street where the A.P. Clay Bible College is housed.

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“We’ve come together, prayed together and God has worked itout,” said Mt. Wade Pastor Dr. Phillip Hamilton. “Pastor Ryan(Thurman, Central Baptist Church) and I both believe theopportunity to continue to expand our ministry, this is an opendoor for both of us to do so. God gives both pastors a vision, andtheir vision and ours are working together.”

The churches will combine congregations at Central BaptistMonday at 7 p.m. for a joint worship service to celebrate thefuture.

The primary need for both churches is space. Hamilton said Mt.Wade’s vision is to meet the total needs of man – not just tominister spiritually, but to tend to people’s social, economic andemotional needs. To do this, Mt. Wade operates a series ofcommunity outreach programs, like after-school tutoring, family fundays and various seminars, all meant to restore the church’sold-time place as the centerpiece in the community, he said.

“Our number one objective has always been to develop a ministryand then facilitate the ministry with a building – it never waswe’re going to build this building then decide what we’re going todo with it,” Hamilton said. “(The Central Baptist campus) has theadequate classrooms we want. We have a lot of young people and wehave some programs we want to be able to utilize the gym for.”

Hamilton said the new campus’ large sanctuary will be a blessingfor his 250-member congregation, which often swells past 300 onSundays. Before moving into the new facilities, Mt. Wade membersplan to begin minor renovations such as enlarging restrooms,installing a new public address system and paint and touch-up work.He said the church hopes to be ready to move into the new campus byearly October, in time for its annual revival.

Purchasing the Central Baptist campus was a good move for theexpansion of Mt. Wade because the two churches are so closetogether. Central Baptist, however, had to move to grow its125-member congregation.

“We feel like the Lord is just leading us in a different area ofthe ministry,” Thurman said. “We’re landlocked in (the NorthJackson Street campus) as far as growth. We purchased all theproperty around us, so if we were going to grow any more we’d berunning into problems in years to come.”

Thurman said church leaders would begin planning and designingthe new campus on Highway 550 as soon as the move to downtown iscomplete. He said the first building erected at the new site wouldlikely be a multi-use facility that, when the main church is built,can be converted into a children’s center, fellowship hall or otherfacility. The multi-use facility will be used for around 10 years,he said, and then a new worship center will be built.

“We’re taking it in a step-by-step process,” Thurman said. “Wewon’t be in Progressive a day longer than we have to.”

Both pastors said their congregations were behind the massivenew project, but there are always dissenters. Thurman said hischurch voted 88 percent in favor of the plan.

“We have a mostly older congregation, and any change like thatis going to be a challenge for anyone,” he said. “The heart of thepeople know the Lord has led us in this direction. He’s openeddoors for us in the past five years and really given a sense to thechurch that this is what He wants. But faith and fear always walkside-by-side, so it’s always a scary time, too.”

Conditions at Mt. Wade are similar, Hamilton said. The mainconcern there is the church might move beyond the residents it hasalways served.

“Most of the people there were raised on Union Street or havesome type of connection to Union Street – their pride, heart andtradition revolves around it,” Hamilton said. “We have to make surewe maintain that connection. We’re not leaving the community. Ithink Mt. Wade has been an asset to Union Street and Ingram Street,so hopefully in the future we’ll be an asset on North JacksonStreet. Our door is open to everybody.”

The church transaction does leave Lincoln County emergencyofficials with one less evacuation shelter for hurricane season,however. With Central Baptist moving downtown, Thurman saidoperating a shelter is not a primary focus. Hamilton said using thecampus as a shelter is a possibility, but his church leaders havenot yet discussed it.

“I’d hate to say yes, but I don’t want to say no,” he said.