Eastern Shore Baptist Church dedicates new sanctuary, returns to one servicecomment (0)
December 23, 2004
By Kathleen Penton
The congregation of Eastern Shore Baptist Church in Daphne, Baldwin Association, usually celebrates its anniversary in August, since the church was constituted in August 1987, but this year, everyone was late to the party.
They were waiting on the location for their celebration — a new sanctuary — to be completed.
It takes a lot of people working together to accomplish the building of a building, and a combined anniversary celebration and dedication service on Dec. 5 was a time to recognize those who played a role. Part of dedicating the building meant letting go of it and letting God use it.
For the past eight years, the church has held two morning worship services, but for the past six weeks, the congregation of more than 1,100 has been able to worship together with one service in a sanctuary that will seat approximately 1,400, once 200 seats are added to the now empty balcony.
“What had happened in eight years, we’d developed into two separate churches,” Pastor Grant Barber said. “We were doing the same service both services, but we developed into two different groups of people meeting at two different times and so we’ve come back together as one family. Not that we disagreed before, we just didn’t know each other.”
This sanctuary, built by Roy Lewis Construction Corp. of Mobile, was designed acoustically and physically for a place of worship with a seating arrangement to enhance congregational participation.
“It is overwhelming,” said John Thomas, a founding member and professor emeritus in the religion department of the University of Mobile. “It’s the most worshipful auditorium I’ve been in in many, many years.”
Thomas said you could sit anywhere you want in the fan-shaped auditorium and hear the same sound as everybody else.
Eastern Shore Baptist began as a mission of Daphne Baptist Church with about 45 members. In 1990, the church moved into its first sanctuary after worshiping in four locations, including an old barroom and a motel.
In the early days, the challenge of not having a building of its own was best summed up in the motto, “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.”
They were forced to be creative in meeting people’s needs spiritually and physically. The motel’s swimming pool doubled as a baptismal pool, and the first communion service was observed at the home of one of the deacons.
After several years, the sanctuary was renovated and expanded but still could not keep pace with the growing congregation. Ground was broken for the new sanctuary in October 2001, with the realization that this was something that needed to be done not just in response to current growth but for future growth as well.
Just in the past few weeks, people have joined the church. Barber, who has been with the church since it was founded, said it happens every time they move into a new building.
He attributed the growth to strong leadership through the laity, who have been excited about and encouraging in reaching others.
“I believe that people need to be at home with God ... [and] this will be a facility to help people come to be home with God and to have a relationship with Him in Christ,” he said. “A place of safety or refuge or whatever you’d like it to be.”
Barber cautioned that the building should not become an end in itself in that the congregation becomes complacent with it. Instead, he said they should use it as a launching pad or a home base for sending people out on missions.