Anchor Baptist dedicates sanctuary


November 04, 1999|By Joni Guhne | Joni Guhne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

FAITH AND dedication are building blocks of a church -- but when a congregation outgrows its space, it can also become a matter of money, bricks and construction delays.

The 26-year-old Anchor Baptist Church on West Pasadena Road in Millersville has come through such a test. The proof: its new octagonal sanctuary.

"A lot of thought was put into the design," says the Rev. Andy Counterman, Anchor's religious leader for nearly seven years -- a period that also saw building of a fellowship hall.

The old church and the modern sanctuary are connected by a 1,100-square-foot foyer, with an entry wall of glass that visually extends a welcome to the community. The entire addition, just under 10,000 square feet, cost about $1.2 million.

"I've been in the ministry for about 20 years," the pastor says,"and when you're working with smaller churches, you never think of working with that kind of money. But the role of the pastor has changed; you have to be financially street-smart."

In an effort to "keep a small-church attitude," members raised money the old-fashioned way: filling the collection plate. And then they ran into some good luck -- a "corporate angel," Counterman says.

"This person, who insists upon remaining anonymous, demonstrated an interest in our church and its stewardship enough to give us a gift of $700,000 for the building project," the pastor says.

In 6 1/2 years, the church has completed $300,000 worth of mission projects. Its annual operating budget is based on a 51-week calendar. The 52nd Sunday is called Sacrificial Sunday (usually Easter), and the collection taken that day is dedicated to a project of the congregation's choosing.

Sacrificial Sunday collections have been saved for three years for the building project. The rest of the money came from a bank loan.

"Because of the moneys we held when we went looking for a bank, they were lining up for us," says Counterman, whose congregation gives him much of the credit for Anchor's growth and success, and calls him simply "Pastor."

"He's a real people person," says church secretary Nancy Sechrist, who has worshipped at Anchor Baptist for 11 years.

"We started small," says Debbie Vogelsang, a member for 20 years, "and we were slow to grow. But we got to a point when we realized the old building wasn't big enough. We were forced to go to two [Sunday morning] services, which is not ideal. The two groups going to the different services don't know each other."

Construction began in March. "The congregation chose not to participate in the construction," Counterman says, "although a lot of them would have enjoyed it. We wanted to stay focused on other things, like our senior and teen ministries."

On Oct. 23, the congregation gathered to dedicate the new sanctuary -- a bit before the actual completion. The service was held in the old church section.

"We didn't have the icing on the cake," says Counterman, "but the cake was still there."

Everyone hopes to be in the new sanctuary within the next few weeks. Says Vogelsang: "I'm looking forward to one service and one family."

Counterman said yesterday that building and fire marshal inspections are all that stand in the way. After occupancy of the new sanctuary is approved, the Sunday schedule will be school at 9: 15 a.m., the lone morning worship at 10: 30 a.m., and evening worship at 6 p.m.

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