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Building helps Pilgrim Rest help more peoplecomment (0)

March 26, 2009

By Eddie Colf

On a recent Sunday morning, one church in Tuscaloosa literally stopped traffic.

Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church met in its soon-to-be old sanctuary and then led a procession just across the street to its new building.

The short walk was the culmination of a more than two-yearlong Faith-Walk emphasis to build, furnish and open the new sanctuary. It wrapped up months of work — but it opened up years of ministry to come, said Leander Jones, pastor of the Tuscaloosa Baptist Association church.

“The old building suffered from a lack of storage space,” Jones said. “Oftentimes it would be necessary to store goods for benevolent purposes in places designed for cleaning supplies.”

But he said the new building, which doubles the church’s office, classroom and worship space, has space set aside for benevolent ministries — a new freezer and a set of floor-to-ceiling cabinets. 

That’s important to a church that values service.

For most of the 15 years Jones has been pastor, Pilgrim Rest Baptist has participated in benevolent ministries.

In cooperation with a local business, the church has offered clothing to those in need, and with the worsening of the economy, it has re-established a relationship with the West Alabama Food Bank in Tuscaloosa. The church purchases items like meats, canned goods and dry goods by the pound from the food bank, and a deacon makes weekly, if not more frequent, distributions.

And with the help of a local bakery, Pilgrim Rest offers bread to needy families in the congregation. But more often than not, church members take the bread home and share it with neighbors and needy families in the community — something Jones encourages.

“We must serve the people if we’re going to save the people,” he said. “Jesus ministered to people’s physical needs along with their spiritual needs. Physical needs are a pregnant concern in this community.”

But the congregation of 84-year-old Pilgrim Rest isn’t just ministering to people in Tuscaloosa. Last year, the church took its first missions trip. In New Orleans, church members handed out toiletries to the homeless, worked on a Habitat for Humanity project for four days and shared the gospel.

“It was a blessing to see a congregation, which had never embarked on such an endeavor, quickly come together to provide a wealth of physical, financial and spiritual support,” said Dustin Scott, an intern at Pilgrim Rest and a student at Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham. 

The church looks forward to a missions opportunity in the economically hard-hit city of Detroit this summer.

Much like the missions trips, Jones hopes the benevolent ministries provide a way to share the gospel with and be a blessing to others.

He also hopes the addition of new worship space will increase community involvement and church members’ faith as the congregation of just more than 150 struggled for years to complete each segment of the building project.

“There were those who said, ‘We can’t do it,’” Jones said. “On the journey is where you see the presence of God and your faith is tested. It is there that you experience God’s faithfulness.”

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