HOUSTON • First Baptist Church of Houston held a ribbon-cutting to dedicate their new building, entitled The Life Center, Sunday, Feb. 16, Pastor Daniel R. Heeringa said this week.
Despite years of planning, and a pricetag of $1 million-plus, the building now sits vacant temporarily – a victim of a deadly worldwide coronavirus pandemic no one saw coming.
Harsh measures instituted nationwide to fight the disease soon after the ribbon-cutting have limited activity at the building until further notice. Those measures discourage gatherings of more than 10 people interacting with each other so as to avoid spreading the disease. Older Americans should stay home, and everyone should avoid crowds. Discretionary travel and social visits should also be avoided, according to the Center for Disease Control.
The strictures also mean that there will be no public worship services in the church until further notice, although the services will be streamed on-line, Bro. Heeringa said.
“It’s bittersweet – we’ve created this wonderful building which we won’t be able to fully use” until the coronavirus pandemic passes, he said this week. He believes that time will come, but can’t say for sure when it will be.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony capped two decades of planning for the $1.5 million structure.
“We’ve been talking about doing this project for over 20 years. We visited the project several times, but things really began to take shape in the fall of 2016, when we chose a particular design and began raising funds,” he said.
The project gathered momentum with the purchase of two lots behind the church that became the site where the building now stands.
The project’s theme was “Together We Grow,” and nourished by financial and spiritual support, the project did just that.
Dirt work for the building began as soon as weather allowed in early 2019. What arose was a 15,000 sq. ft. one floor partial brick veneer building constructed by Century Construction of Tupelo.
The project ran somewhat behind schedule due to the weather, but Bro. Heeringa pronounced himself well satisfied with the finished project by Century – which was also constructing two other business buildings in Tupelo at the same time – and the building.
The structure will serve many ministries when it someday re-opens, he said.
“Half the structure will serve as a gymnasium. There is also a commercial kitchen, an assembly room, an exercise room, and four educational classrooms for youth meetings and other activities,” he said.
Construction of the building represents the bulk of a $1.7 million long-term expansion plan for the church. About two-thirds of the project’s cost is already paid for, thanks to a three-year fundraising program begun 16 months ago.
“The campaign has been very successful for us. We committed to raise $1.1 million over three years, and after 16 months we’ve already raised over $750,000 and have paid about $1 million toward it,” Bro. Heeringa said.
The rest of the plan: Planned renovations to educational areas and bathrooms, and converting a building used as a youth building into a senior adult center.
The building – unused before the ribbon cutting – saw some use before the anti-coronavirus measures. “We held a fundraising banquet and some recreational activities in the facility before the coronavirus shutdown,” he said.
Despite sitting mostly unused until the coronavirus threat passes, the building’s construction has helped the church, and the benefits of health and education will continue once it resumes use, he said.
“This has been a powerful vehicle for the church to grow together around it. Our philosophy during this coronavirus difficulty is to Connect, Pray, Attend and Give. There’s been a lot of excitement about completion of this project, and people have given tremendously to help make it happen,” he concluded.