Project is more than bricks

Published 1:51 am Tuesday, January 3, 2012

First Baptist Church’s $2-million building and renovation project is 99 percent complete, with a few minor components of the project left to be finished, said the Rev. Dr. James Moore, the church’s pastor.
“Well, for a long time, our church has needed updating. We knew that. One of the main updates we needed here was to make our whole facility handicapped-accessible. It was hard for people with handicaps, if you were in a wheelchair, or used a walker or crutches, if you had trouble getting around, it was hard for you to get to certain places in our church, in our facility,” Moore said. “We have Bible-study classes that meet upstairs. We have youth activities, and our youth group meets downstairs on our lower level. It was hard to access those areas. Now we have an elevator. We have worked very hard in this renovation-construction project to make our whole facility handicapped-accessible. I’m not aware of a single place in our whole facility that a person could not go if they needed to go, if they were in a wheelchair or had to use a walker, crutch, can, whatever.”
Moore further discussed reasons for pursuing the project.
“We have a weekday preschool program here. For a number of years, well, for as long as it’s been inexistence, that facility has been in our basement, which was not a good place. It was not an attractive place, to begin with. It was not the safest place for children to be in a basement,” Moore said. “We have now corrected that. We have a brand-new children’s wing, which will house our weekday education program. It, too, is handicapped-accessible. It’s a very attractive place. Not only will it house our weekday education program, it will also house our Sunday school for preschoolers.”
Moore said he hopes that new space for young children will appeal to young parents.
“I hope they will find our church to be welcoming and see that we have made an effort to attract younger families in our community,” Moore said.
Moore said Washington’s First Baptist Church, located at the intersection of East Main and Harvey streets, is more than just a building.
“One thing I keep reminding our congregation, reminding people, this is just brick and mortar. The church is not a building. The church is the people,” Moore said. “I think brick and mortar is important, and we want our facility to be attractive. We want it to be comfortable. We want it to be accessible. That’s not the church. The brick and mortar is not the church. … I want this place to be a place where we not necessarily come to, but go from as we reach into the community as the church, as God’s people, to share God’s love, to share the Gospel, to share what Christ has done. And this is a place we come to, to be refueled, to be encouraged, to be challenged. From here, we go into our community.”
Moore believes the renovations, new construction and improved accessibility will make it easier for people to come to the church and participate in its services and programs and for the church to continue and expand those services and programs.
“Now, we’ve done everything we know to do to bring our building up to all the modern codes. I think parents can feel like this is a safer place to bring children, and therefore they feel more comfortable bringing their children. Not only are their children being nurtured, but they, too, are being nurtured. So, I think they are connected,” Moore said.
A dedication service for the renovated and expanded church likely will be conducted in March, said Moore.
The project, which broke ground in 2010, includes the addition of a children’s wing, new adult Sunday-school classrooms, a dedicated youth area, a gathering space next to the sanctuary, chancel renovation, new restrooms, audio-visual  upgrades and an elevator.
“Today, 188 years after the founding of First Baptist Church, we break ground and physically mark another spiritual marker in the life of our church,” said David Cox, representing the church’s building committee, at the groundbreaking ceremony. “This expansion and renovation, while multifaceted, primarily addresses two huge needs: additional and improved educational space and accessibility. The educational space is aimed primarily at our children and youth, and the improved accessibility will enable folks with physical limitations to access all parts of the church.”
Cox said without the support of the church’s members, who voted Aug. 29, 2010, to proceed with the project, the project would not have been possible.
“Lastly, we distinctly recognize the hand of God in this project. We have felt his leading at each critical step, and we continue to beg his presence and guidance as we go forward into construction,” Cox concluded.

Church milestones
• First Baptist Church organized in 1822.
•First building (sanctuary) built in 1917 at
present location.
• Educational building constructed in 1955.
• Major sanctuary renovation in 1969.
• Family Life Center constructed in 1985.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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