New community center in the works on West High Street

First Baptist Church is in the process of opening a public space of fellowship and ministry. The Community Center, coming soon at 209 West High Street, is a vision they hope to introduce by next fall. 

“Our mission is to proclaim the gospel to everyone who walks through the doors of the building,” said Mandi Pascarella, director of youth and technology at First Baptist Church. “You don’t need to be a Christian when you walk in, but we hope that you will experience Christ in the people you meet, the activities going on and how we are going to be running things.”

The facility stands in the building of what used to be the convenience store Belko Foods. First Baptist Church’s need to expand had been a growing concern for some time. They discussed several possible locations for an additional space to host church activities, and Belko Foods seemed to announce its closure in perfect timing.

“It really was a God thing,” said Jonathon Johnson, moderator of the church. He holds an elected position that can be compared to that of a president. Johnson said getting the facility ready for public use will require three phases: a visionary phase, a building phase and a capital campaign to raise funds. He said they are currently at the end of the visionary phase. 

“Much of our vision is still very fluid because we want to leave room for God and others in the community to share what’s on their hearts,” Johnson said. “It’s all in God’s hands.”

Some anticipated uses of the building will include relocating the church’s preschool there by next fall, adding a gym, an after-school program for youth, a coffee shop or café and a big welcome center to educate people on resources in the area. 

“We don’t want it to be a space that just provides everything but also promotes the community and encourages you to go elsewhere,” Pascarella said. 

Part of the facility’s mission statement also reads they hope to minister to, “all the needs of the community.” They hope to “provide outreach that will be interdenominational, intergenerational and minister to the financially disadvantaged and the spiritually bankrupt all the same.”

“The building itself is just the instrument. We are really focused on making an environment where we can engage people in intentional relationships and focus on our commonalities rather than the differences we have,” Johnson said. 

They don’t desire to prompt any threat to other churches or organizations of ministry in the area and are open to other churches or individuals using the space for personal ministry, providing it aligns with their mission. 

“We are reaching out to like-minded Christians not necessarily the church,” Johnson said. “We are looking to create an environment that will break down walls between denominations.”

The building will provide many opportunities for service or ideas of ministry to members of the community. They are looking for individuals willing, “to serve in whatever capacity is on their heart,” Johnson said.

They also plan to hire a few staff members outside of the church with a heart for ministry. 

The project will be an ongoing one for at least the next year.