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Northport Baptist Church’s new facility paves way for Easter dramacomment (0)

April 6, 2006

By Alicia Morris-Atcheson

I told our congregation that if we’re going to reach anyone else, we’ve got to build,” said John Nixon, senior pastor of Northport Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa Baptist Association.
And now that vision is being played out in a new Easter outreach.
Meeting in a 1927 sanctuary built to accommodate 450 people, the building was literally bursting at the seams trying to accommodate the 1,700-member congregation. In 1993, the church began holding two services on Sunday morning to accommodate the large crowd.
But that still was not enough.
“We were running more in Sunday School than in worship because the building just couldn’t contain everyone,” Nixon said. “We needed to make a change because we were at a point that we couldn’t reach any more people. We didn’t have the room.”
The congregation agreed and in 2002, it embarked on a $6.4 million construction project to update its facility.
The new sanctuary and senior adult wing were completed in April 2004. The fan-shaped sanctuary, which seats 950, has enabled the congregation to return to one Sunday worship service and boasts a state-of-the-art sound system, theater lighting, projection screens and plasma screens for choir members. 
The educational wing provides more space for the 150 active senior adults at the church.
In addition to a lack of space in the old sanctuary, columns blocked the line of vision for those seated in certain places. Church member Paige Cooper said the lack of adequate seating prevented the congregation from hosting special events.
“We had a program a few years ago. It started at 7 but by 6:30, there wasn’t a seat left in there. People were standing around the walls. We had to start hosting some of our events at a facility downtown,” she said.
Nixon said the added space and technology have greatly increased the opportunities for programs and outreach events. 
The congregation now utilizes the facility for its Upward Basketball season-end celebration and summer day camp. The church also has added an orchestra and incorporated videos in its worship services.
One of the church’s new outreach efforts is an Easter drama/musical, “The Amazing Love,” set for April 14–16 that includes approximately 130 church members in the choir, orchestra and drama portions. Other members are building sets and sewing costumes for the big event.
The drama, written by Cooper, follows the Passion story and includes a modern-day family setting along with scenes of various biblical characters.
“There are a lot of people today who are uncomfortable to come in the church doors and may feel church people are too holy,” Cooper said. “But when you study the Bible, you see people from the very beginning of time have a lot of the same, simple problems we have today. We all have faced the same issues. We just wanted everybody to know it doesn’t matter what you’ve done that we’re all welcome to come to the feet of Jesus.”
Church member Betty McGahey said the program is “the best thing the church has ever done, and now we have the facility to do it.”
“Our goal for the event is help everyone realize that we don’t live here for very long, but we live forever on the other side,” she said. “We just want people to see how serious this is.”
Cooper said the church has a prayer team focusing on the event. She said the church’s hope is that lives will be changed through these performances.
“When you have a building, it can just be a building and sit there or it can be a tool for outreach,” Cooper said. “That’s what we’re trying to do — use this building to bring people to Jesus.”

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