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FBC Centre fulfills longtime dreamcomment (0)

March 6, 2003

By June Mathews

Feb. 9 marked the fulfillment of a long-standing dream for First Baptist Church, Centre. With the grand opening of its Recreational and Outreach Center (ROC), the Cherokee Association congregation saw a concept that had been on members’ hearts and minds for 24 years become a ­reality.

According to Pastor Jim Wright, the idea for the $3 million project was conceived under the leadership of the church’s previous pastor, Melvin Salter.

In 1979, as plans were being made to build the current sanctuary and renovate the old one, a suggestion was made that building a recreation center should also be considered. While the other two projects were completed, the recreation center never materialized. But the idea was never forgotten. Over the years, various options were considered, but the pieces never fell into place. A major problem was finding the right site.

“We were landlocked,” said Wright. “We had bought some land behind us that we thought we could build the center on, but it turned out that it would be really expensive to even get the land ready for construction because there was a spring underneath it. The Lord just kept shutting doors, it seemed.”

The possibility of locating away from the church was investigated and in time, doors began to open.

A piece of property located about a mile away from the church that church leaders were told wasn’t available became available through an unusual connection. The patriarch of the family who owned the property had been on the building committee when First, Centre, built the original sanctuary in 1949.

The family ultimately agreed to sell 65 acres to the church — and only the church — at below appraised value.

Stepping out in faith

“We were fortunate in that we hadn’t been in debt for many years and were able to afford this,” Wright said. “It was a big decision for us, but we had to decide if we were going to wait and wait and wait or move on. We just felt like God was leading us to go ahead and step out on faith and do this.”

Wright said that $800,000 had been raised for the building already. The church has $2.2 million left to raise.“This is a pretty big leap of faith that the membership has taken,” said Wade Rooks, minister of recreation and senior adults for the approximately 1,000-member congregation. “We’re opening things up, trying a lot of different things, and we’ll see how it flies.”

The state-of-the-art facility includes a collegiate-size gym with four side goals and a second-level walking track; a crafts room; a fully-equipped weight room; an aerobics room; a toddler room to be staffed part time for parents participating in center activities; a room for social occasions; a conference room with audio/visual capabilities; a youth room and an area that will soon house the church’s day care.

According to Rooks, several events have already been scheduled at the ROC, including a Sportsman’s Bonanza in March featuring pro fisherman Royce Raley. Through such activities, Rooks said, the church hopes to reach all of Cherokee County and not just the immediate area. “The ROC is going to be more of a community center than anything else,” he said. “Everyone is welcome.”

The pastor believes the away-from-church location will appeal to a wider range of people, thereby expanding the ROC’s sphere of influence and outreach abilities well beyond the church’s membership.

“My vision as a pastor is that this is going to be a catalyst for ministry evangelism in our county.” Wright said. “I  believe we can use this facility to reach out in new ways. We can  reach a whole new segment of people we’ve never reached before.”

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