‘Elbow Room’

Published 10:26 am Thursday, September 14, 2017

ST. JOHN – The next time members of St. John Baptist Church offers one of its long line of lip-smacking barbequed chicken fundraisers, there will be plenty of “elbow room” for all involved.

This past Sunday (Sept. 10), church members dedicated its new Fellowship Hall, a spacious 40’ by 90’ facility that replaces a tiny, white cinderblock building located directly across NC 461.

“We definitely needed this expanded space to hold not only our fundraisers, but for other church functions to include Vacation Bible School, bridal showers, wedding receptions, and other community events,” said Pat Barr, a Deacon at the church.

Plans to build the new Fellowship Hall date back over six years.

The new Fellowship Hall at St. John Baptist Church (above) replaces a small, 1950-era building (below).

In May 2011, the church purchased 2.5 acres of land directly behind its main facility with dreams of building a new Fellowship Hall. This building would include a new and larger kitchen and much needed storage space.

“Anyone that has worked in the kitchen at the little building across the road knows that more space was needed,” Barr noted.

In the fall of 2011, a committee was appointed to visit the fellowship halls of local churches and come up with a plan that would fit the needs of St. John. That group came up with a dream design and with the help of A. R. Chesson Construction Company, drawings of the building and floor plans were made.

With a project cost in mind, members of the church launched its first barbequed chicken and live auction fundraiser in the spring of 2012. This was followed by a yard sale by the WMU in early summer and another

barbeque chicken dinner in the fall. These three fundraisers have become annual events since that time, with all proceeds benefitting the Fellowship Hall Building Fund.

Another fundraising idea came with the establishment of a plaque so that both current and former church members could memorialize or honor their loved ones. Those names were engraved on the plaques with a minimum donation of $200. These plaques are now located in the foyer of the new Fellowship Hall and continue to receive donations.

In the spring of 2016, the building fund had reached nearly three-fourths of the money needed for construction. A contract was awarded to Revelle Builders of Murfreesboro for construction. The remaining cost of the project was financed through a loan from Southern Bank. Construction began in the fall of last year and the building was formally dedicated, complete with a meal, this past Sunday.

“We are not through; we still have a debt to pay, and our annual fundraisers will continue,” Barr said.

“We could not have made it this far without the will of our God, the hard work of our church family, our community, friends in the surrounding counties and local businesses. Thank you to all that have supported our goal and pray that you continue your support,” she added.

The previous Fellowship Hall was located across the road from the church. That 24’ x 40’ building traces its roots to 1950, constructed then by the Home Demonstration Club (HDC).

Research performed by St. John Baptist Church Deacon Joe Askew shows that facility – known by many as the Community Building – was used extensively by the church due to the fact that many of its women members were also part of the HDC.

Over the years upgrades were made to the building with the addition of a 12’ x 21’ kitchen. Later, men’s and women’s restrooms and central heat and air were added.

In the mid 1990’s, the HDC was dissolved and the ownership of the building was transferred to the church.

“The building has served the community and the church well over the years, but due to its age is in need of repairs,” Askew noted in his research. “The road separating it from the church has been and remains a great concern for both our children and older members. The elevated bathrooms are also a safety concern for our elderly.”

All of those problems are now solved with the opening of the new Fellowship Hall.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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