Baptists ready to dedicate new office

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 17, 2003

For many years, the Covington Baptist Association (CBA) has served 56 Southern Baptist churches in the county and over 15,000 members behind priorities such as church development, actions pertaining to mission work and meeting Christian human needs in the area.

Now the organization has a spacious new home to continue those pursuits.

The CBA moved into its new 8,000 square foot building last week, a building which includes numerous amenities such as offices, meeting rooms and pastoral studies.

Sunday the CBA will have the opportunity to formally unveil its new facilities, with final touches still being made, as an open house will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. A dedication service will be held at 2:30 p.m.

CBA Director of Missions Larry Cummings said he and the eight-person staff of the CBA are very excited about being in the new building following several months of construction and anticipation.

"We are glad to be (in the new building)," said Cummings. "At our (former facility), the main disadvantage there was parking and it was very hard to get in and out plus most of the parking was in the back. (The former building) was adequate, but it sure is nice to be here where we've got a little bit of extra space."

Cummings said he also eagerly anticipates being able to show off the modern new facility.

"There are a lot of people who have been involved (in the move to the new building) from our 56 member churches and a lot of interest has been shown from our community," said Cummings. "We feel like our location here is pretty centrally located in our county and easily accessible. Plus we are excited that (U.S. Highway 84, where the building is located near Sanford) will be four-laned and that is in the planning stages."

Cummings and his staff

were very involved in the planning and design of the facility and said the staff feels blessed about seeing those hopes and plans come to fruition.

"Our mission is to encourage and support the work of our member churches, and that is why we (exist)," said Cummings. "I think the media center is going to be a real asset for our churches, plus we have some multimedia equipment that is available for our churches to use. We are going to be able to do a better job of resourcing. We are hoping that areas such as our pastors studies will be utilized a lot. We have a meeting room where we can have a relatively large group of people to come together. We are not trying to have a church here, but I think (the new building) is going to be more functional. "

He said those who have already had a chance to tour the facility, which covers seven acres, have expressed positive sentiments about it.

"People have been very positive," said Cummings, who is currently serving as interim pastor at Southside Baptist Church in Andalusia in addition to his duties with the CBA. "When you have an association like this, that is made up of 56 churches, all of those churches look at this building as if it is theirs. They are part of this and they're the ones that made this possible. I think there is a lot of gratitude and all of the comments we've heard have been encouraging. Our staff just sort of catches themselves walking through and we are sort of awed that we have this kind of space and have room to expand and do some other things and help our churches."

In regards to the small house next door which temporarily served as the CBA headquarters, Cummings said the association is leaning towards possibly using it to house missionary families.

"A lot of times our missionaries that we have in foreign countries come (to the state) for stateside assignments and they will be here for six months to a year, so we see where it would benefit us to provide housing for them while they are here and they can visit in our churches," said Cummings. "That encourages our people (already in the county and state) to be involved too, and we have a lot of missions currently going on in our association."

Cummings said he wants to emphasize that member churches are welcome to use the facility whenever they need to and said he hopes the building will only strengthen the cooperative spirit with the churches.

Church Development Director/Counselor Debbie Blankenship said she is still overwhelmed by the new facility's beauty and space.

"I just feel so blessed and God has provided for us so abundantly," said Blankenship. "We have so much room to grow and there are so many possibilities as far as expansion. I am really excited about our library and we are going to be able to resource our churches and individuals in a way that is just unbelievable. We have all that space, and we've had resources but the space we have now is overwhelming."

Blankenship said she has seen immediate benefits from having her counseling space separate from her church development office.

"I can get up and leave a church development project on my desk, and then go into the counseling office which is separate and that is helpful to me," said Blankenship. "The building is above and beyond all of my expectations."