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Anniston church rebuilds, sees revival after firecomment (0)

March 3, 2005

By Sondra Washington

After an arsonist burned the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church, Anniston, in 2001, members faced a dilemma – the decision to rebuild or relocate. 
Over the years, church membership steadily declined and several break-ins signified diminishing safety in the area. In addition, the aging congregation had failed to minister to people in the community, according to Pastor Buddy Nelson.
Hoping to give their ministry a fresh start and new vision for the future, church members took a leap of faith and constructed a 17,000-square-foot facility at the newly redeveloped Fort McClellan Army base, which is located about four miles north of the old facility. 
Since opening its doors as Anniston’s First Baptist Church at McClellan last September, the church has seen a rise in church programs, community outreach and potential members.
“Many Sundays in the old facility, we had no visitors unless it was a family member,” said Nelson. “Here, we average at least 30 visitors that are legitimate prospects per Sunday. Our first Sunday here we had five baptisms. In the three years prior, the church only had one baptism.”
Determined to reach people in the area, the church designed its new building with many modern conveniences and easy accessibility. 
The fan-shaped sanctuary seats 300 and easily expands to 700 by converting the eight surrounding classrooms. 
The Spanish-Colonial style building was also intentionally designed without stairs to ensure easy mobility for physically disabled members and visitors.
“We wanted it to be accessible and available to anyone and everyone that wanted to come and worship,” said Nelson.
He added that the excitement from having a new building and a new vision to be more involved in ministry and missions has been evident in the level of giving in the church. “We reached our Lottie Moon goal of $2,600 in two weeks and exceeded it by 60 percent,” he said. “We had not gone over $2,600 in the past 10 years. 
“There is just a new overall excitement that we have a future,” Nelson said. “In the old facility there just did not seem to be a future. Life has been put back into the church.”
Because the church leased its old facility to a local company for more than their debt service, the budget has not been strained. This allowed the church to immediately begin new ministry projects. 
Currently, the church has established an active outreach program offering various children’s events from Easter egg hunts and block parties to choir and missions groups on Wednesday and Sunday nights, according to Nelson.
“Our calendar is really just filling up with other opportunities that we are going to involve people in,” he said. 
“Everything we plan now is not just what we do for our members; we plan for our members, the community and our prospects,” Nelson said. “We are letting people know that we are a place they can invest their lives and a good place to raise their children.”
Nelson noted that community residents are responding well to the church and he looks forward to the church’s future. “People who live in the immediate area are coming to experience our church.”
“In the old building, we were becoming an elderly population (but) in the new building we are attracting younger families and youth. It’s a wonderful place to be. God has been mighty good to us.”

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