Church building takes final bow, services move to theater

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 17, 2004

For those who believe a church is just the building where people worship, the First Baptist Church in Georgiana has news for you.

For the time being, parishioners have relocated from their beloved old church to the Ga-Ana Theatre.

According to the Rev. Allen Stephenson, the theater is a blessing from above.

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&uot;We are going to be build a new church so we had to move out so we could clean out the building, bring it down and build a new one,&uot; Stephenson said. &uot;For some time we have been planning this move and we’re extremely fortunate to be able to move into such a wonderful facility thanks to Marilyn and J.C. Sims.&uot;

Simms renovated the theater and reopened it in 1999. He and his wife are members of First Baptist and took to the idea of their theater being used immediately.

&uot;It is a very good feeling for us to do this,&uot; Marilyn Sims said. &uot;We reopened it as a movie theater. We wanted something that was family oriented. We just couldn’t do it with the movies that came out that year.&uot;

Stephenson said the building does not adhere to traditional church school and services and logistics plays a part each week.

&uot;Some classes are being held in homes close to the theater while others are being held in different parts of the theater,&uot; he said. &uot;So far, even without letting the public know, our attendance has been up at all services.&uot;

The church building must be rebuilt because the walls on the existing structure, built in 1920, are being pushed out by the roof’s weight.

&uot;We have been told by engineers that they can not shore up the roof any more,&uot; Stephenson said.

&uot;Our new building will be all one level which will suit our membership better. We now have the final plans for the new church and are in the process of the building committee reviewing those and we would like to be able to begin construction in late spring.&uot;

The church body could not be happier with the temporary location and plan to utilize the theater as much as possible.

&uot;The building has wonderful acoustics and special music is easily arranged,&uot; Stephenson said. In our future services we will have a great deal of special music.&uot;

The pastor said the church plans to hold an auction and sale at the old church to make available items not to be used in the new church.

&uot;We are going to use what we can in the new building, but some of those things we just can’t,&uot; he said. &uot;The company that is restoring the five art mural stained glass windows are expected in next week to remove the rest of the stained glass which will be used in the new building.&uot;

Marilyn Sims said they are happy to help their fellow church members and the church has full use until the new building is finished.

&uot;We now use it as a recording studio,&uot; she said. &uot;We have concerts there every second Saturday night of each month. When there aren’t church functions going on, we can have other things.&uot;

As for how long the church construction will take?

&uot;We have been told it will take two to three years, but they have a lease to use it as long as they need it,&uot; she said. &uot;We have been blessed to give back to the Lord what he has given us. We are just excited to have them.

Stephenson praised the Sims for their help.

&uot;Mr. Sims could not have nicer and more accommodating,&uot; he said. &uot;He and Robert Layton who operates the sound have just bent over backwards to help us.&uot;

Stephenson said he hopes the public will support the church’s endeavor of building a new place of worship and the church welcomes prayers and support.

&uot;We are currently involved in a fundraising capital campaign and we would welcome anyone’s help in prayer or if they would like to, they can make a contribution,&uot; he said. &uot;We still have windows left they can make a donation in honor of someone. One certainly doesn’t have to be a member of First Baptist Church to help out. They just need a vested interest in seeing a new church in Georgiana. A church is like a fire department for it is one component that makes a community whole. We feel like it will help us minister to greater numbers of the community.&uot;