130-year-old church to build new facility to reach growing communitycomment (1)
July 12, 2012
By Brittney Knox and Maggie Walsh
One day Ralph Henderson, pastor of Oswichee Baptist Church, Fort Mitchell, noticed cinder blocks stacked in the vacant lot that will soon hold a new worship facility.
“When I asked one of the members about the cinder blocks, he told me he got them for the foundation of the building and was ready to get started,” Henderson said.
This is just one example of how supportive and eager the Oswichee Baptist congregation is, he said. “They just jumped on board and are willing to jump on whatever needs to be done.”
The Russell Baptist Association church, which was built in 1882, has a congregation whose enthusiasm reaches out into the community through a visitation ministry. Russell County, and especially the area immediately surrounding Oswichee, has experienced a housing boom in the last five years that has become a new ministry field. Fort Mitchell is located 10 miles from Fort Benning, a United States Army post that supports more than 130,000 military personnel, family members and civilians.
“Until about four years ago, the area directly behind this church was just a cotton field,” Henderson said. “Now you see dozens and dozens of houses, which are primarily military families.”
In these neighborhoods, signs announcing new homes are on nearly every street corner.
The Oswichee congregation regularly goes into these neighborhoods and gives gift bags and church service invitations to the residents.
“We’ve had some wonderful success with this ministry,” Henderson said. “It’s opened the door for us to really minister to these families.”
Before the outreach ministry, Oswichee averaged 45 people on Sunday mornings. Now the 130-year-old church averages 100 people in services.
“You can’t describe what’s happening down here,” said Wayne Burns, director of missions for Russell Association, referring to the influx of housing and church growth. “You’ve just got to see it.”
“Any growth we have is attributed to God and His wonderful people,” Henderson said. “But right now we’re not going to grow any more because we can’t get any more people in the church.”
The members of Oswichee know that in order to grow, building a new worship facility is vital. Plans for the new facility include a 1,500-square-foot area for classrooms and a nursery, a 2,300-square-foot kitchen and fellowship hall and a sanctuary that will seat approximately 250 people.
The church will break ground on the new facility July 29 with the help of 103-year-old Carolyn Howard, who has been a member of Oswichee for more than 80 years. Henderson said they plan to preserve the current church building as a chapel.