90-year-old chapel to be replaced

June 23, 1994|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Staff Writer

For 90 years, a small, white chapel has stood on the side of West Earleigh Heights Road, where parishioner have rejoiced each Sunday morning.

But soon the amens and hallelujahs will ring through a new Silas Baptist Church a few feet away from the old building.

The old church, built in 1904 and home of one of the first black congregations in the area, will have to be demolished so that the new one can be built.

The congregation will hold a groundbreaking ceremony at 11 a.m. Saturday to mark the move toward the future and to celebrate reaching a goal.

"When I came here in 1989, that was my vision for the church," said the Rev. Jesse Young, the pastor. "You always have certain goals that you want to obtain."

For Mr. Young, building a new, larger sanctuary to hold his growing congregation was a project that took dedication from the minister and money from the church members.

"The same people who were here five years ago who were giving just a little bit, through teaching, they tithe," he said. "If you teach people the word, they will apply it to their daily living."

That includes applying it to their weekly giving, too.

Mr. Young said he did not hold raffles or fund-raisers or beg members to contribute to the church's building fund. He simply asked them to contribute $5 a week.

The church has tripled in size from the 50 or so members of five years ago, and the new building is to be finished by the end of the year.

That date can't come soon enough for the minister, who said that during many of the church groups' anniversary celebrations, chairs line the aisles in the tiny sanctuary and church members often must stand for the services.

"I'm just excited," said Janice Johnson, director of Christian education. "When I think about the new edifice, boy, are we going to have a good time in there."

Mrs. Johnson, who has been a member of the church for 15 years, said the new building will not change the ways of the old church.

"Silas is a church that makes you feel comfortable. When you leave Silas, you know you've been to church. We just have a hallelujah good time."

The new church will have more than 8,000 square feet, making it more than twice the size of the old building. It will contain a fellowship hall along with the sanctuary and more than half a dozen classrooms.

But Deacon Earl Smith said the new building will have a few recognizable pieces.

"We're going to take some of the old building and put it in the new building," Mr. Smith said. "The cornerstone is a must."

Mr. Young said the stained-glass windows, decorated with biblical symbols such as the Star of David, a winged lion and a basket with fish and bread, also will travel to the new sanctuary.

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