Anyone that lives in Fairfield Glade knows for sure that we are blessed with many churches in many different denominations. They all have a story to tell. Some good, some even, some not so good. Many of those stories need to be told, but not now.
Now, the story of Fairfield Glade First Baptist Church needs to be told. It is unique and the story is important right now for some very good reasons. Not the least of which is the huge Church complex being created next to Food City.
In addition to the Church and education building already completed this complex will eventually include an Athletic Field, an Amphitheater and more covering a full 10 acres. It will be an important asset to all of the Fairfield Glade community as well as Cumberland County.
In 2011 the congregation was told by TDOT that they would lose the building they currently occupy. It would be taken by eminent domain and ownership by the state would be final on Jan 1, 2012.
Hmmmm, that could be shattering news, would be to some groups. Not these folks. For one thing they had preliminary notice from TDOT in the late 1990’s that at some point in the future the Church property would be taken for the coming road widening. They did what all smart Churches should do. They made plans for the future and saved money.
In 2008 the church was able to purchase 10.2 acres across Peavine Rd. for the new church site. They paid in excess of $800,000 in cash for the property. Not only that, approximately $60,000 more was required for the purchase of much needed church bus the same year. They also hired an architectural firm to plan the site and provide drawings for the new Church.
No, they weren’t dealing in anything illegal. No, George Soros would not go near the place and nobody won the lottery. That money came almost exclusively from the parishioners and was the result of long term, disciplined giving and saving. So how’s that for foresight? How’s that for a faithful and committed Church family?
Since the current building would be lost on Jan. 1, 2012, it was imperative that ground breaking take place with enough lead time to get the new building finished in time. Consequently, ground breaking took place on July 10, 2011 with no real knowledge of what compensation would be forthcoming from the state for the old building and land.
This meant that the Church leadership had to come up with flexible plans that would work with a range of financial compensation from the state. They were sure of one thing, this new Church complex needed to get started. Acceptable and most welcome compensation from the state was finally awarded on Jan 1, 2012. Whew!
Construction is now close to completion with Dedication Service and Open House set for next mont — September 9.
This whole story is made even more remarkable in view of that fact that mission donations or community outreach was never curtailed. As Pastor Leonard Markham said “We will not cut our missions giving to build a building.” The list of supported missions is simply too long to be included here. This, of course cannot happen by chance without a firm vision and a faithful congregation of committed Christians. Pastor Markham goes on, “this Church is really blessed with mature Christians who are serious about their faith, about the Bible and about missions and evangelism.”
As amazing as that story is to this point it could never have taken place without some serious help, guidance and yes, inspiration. So where did that come from? It could be said that it came from the new Pastor, probably true … but there just may be more to the story.
Markham answered the call from the Church in June of 2006. It seems it truly was a “calling” as there were good reasons why Pastor Markham would not accept an offer in Fairfield Glade. He was leaving a larger congregation, compensation there was good and Glade demographics would not indicate the potential for significant church growth. Nonetheless, he did have contingent motivation and did accept and has been here since 2006. When asked just why he would want to come here Pastor reassured his interviewer, “A Pastor who is too big for a smaller church is too small for big church. A man needs to always be open to the Lord’s leading.” Nuff said.
It must be recognized that Pastor Markham came with a plan. Shortly after their arrival, Pastor’s delightful wife Debra took a teaching job in the Crab Orchard School. She came with good credentials having been elected “Teacher of the Year” in Hendersonville. Obtaining a new job was not difficult. That contact in Crab Orchard made it possible to start a relationship with children in the school district.
Pastor Markham felt compelled to work with and help these children. Among other things he organized a very successful Cross Country running team. Three of his runners have won the individual county championships. This year the varsity boys team won their first ever team county championship. As you will see, the real impact of this program was much more important than trophies. Things began to change in the Church. More children began showing up in the worship service and in Sunday school. Young adults began joining the church and getting baptized.
More parents and young adults began attending together. Multiple Sunday morning worship services were begun. The Children’s (Grade 1- 6)and Youth Program (Junior High and Senior High) have also been growing. It was and is an exciting time in the church. A time that makes you wonder just what’s coming next. The big “what’s next” of course is the brand new church complex. Pastor Markham it would seem deserves the lion’s share of the credit for all this change but he would disagree. He attributes the growth in numbers, giving and Christian brotherhood to his Lord who has supplied the vision, wisdom and resources for what’s happening.
The new worship center is now well on its way to completion. What you see from Peavine as you motor by is only a fraction of the total. A big percentage of it simply cannot be seen from the road. Not only vast but designed with the flexibility that will allow it to accommodate large worship services as well as focused church and community activities of varying sizes and requirements.
In total it will occupy 23,000 sq. ft. It will be equipped with communication, security and sound systems that will be on the cutting edge of technology. For instance, every flat screen TV in the place — and there are many — can operate in standalone mode or they can be networked together in literally any configuration required at the time.
Security will be just as technologically advanced. One feature will be to have each child wear a unique identifier, the parent or guardian will also have a matching identifier. No pickin’ up the kiddo unless the identifiers match. Those are just a few examples.
The building truly is as technologically advanced as it can be for its function. This is just the beginning. Plans for the future include a dedicated Christian Education building, a Life Center, a Pavilion, an Athletic field and an Amphitheater. When completed the complex will occupy the entire 10.2 acres. All of these plans, the beautiful architecture, the digital flexibility were not constructed to be a tribute to the dedicated Christians at FFGFBC. This entire effort is for much, much more. It is to help people come to know Christ, to accommodate a loving church family and yet even more.
It is to give area young people a chance to dream bigger dreams, to equip them for more important things than working for a fast food restaurant. To give them a safe place that they can go to for mentoring, love, education and encouragement. The young people here will be heading out into the world very soon. They can and will have an impact far beyond Fairfield Glade or Crab Orchard. They may literally impact the world in positive, Christian ways. This church wants to equip these young people to realize their true potential, to be all they can be. Allow them to dream and to give them the opportunity to live their dreams.
So Dear Reader, you will decide what you will. Whatever has and is happening at Farifield Glade First Baptist Church is truly remarkable by any standard. The vision of one man, maybe, but if so just where did that one man get this vision? Just how did it all come together so perfectly? It’s as if the pieces have been drawn together over this short time to contribute the needed expertise and effort to meet this goal.
An amazing collection of focused talent all of a sudden started showing up in church membership. Reggie McDonough who joined the church in 2005 and now serves as the Associate Pastor and Minister of Administration, has had extensive experience in leadership and church administration. Grant Caywood was called as full time Minister of Worship and Discipleship in 2009.
The volunteer list is huge as you can imagine. Lori Allen has served as the Coordinator of Children’s work since 2006; Joan Brining directs the Preschool Department, Jackie LaFerney manages Administrative Operations and Katie Blaylock serves as Youth Director, all volunteers.
The list of other major contributors is simply too long in include here but they have been indispensable. The prevailing feeling is that this is just the beginning … As they say “God’s Vision – Our Mission”
August 26 will mark the first service in our new structure and will be an historic moment for Fairfield and the Church but the official Dedication and Open House will be September 9 — and the community is invited to celebrate, too.
Jim Arber is a freelance writer and leisure professional living in Cumberland County. He can be reached at [email protected]