FAIRFIELD — Temple Baptist Church will pass ownership of its home at 600 E. Tabor Ave. to Bethel Community Church during a combined service Sunday for the two parishes who have shared the building for three years.
For Temple, this will be a major step in redefining its ministry in the community. For Bethel, it will be the permanent home they have been looking for, according to the two churches’ respective pastors.
Temple Baptist Church has been conducting services at its home on East Tabor Avenue for almost half a century, but its congregation has been declining in size for more than a decade, to about 85 members.
The two parishes met three years ago after the newly established Bethel Community Church, with more than 200 active members, started looking around for a location where they could baptize their members.
“We had no place to baptize our members and we found that Temple had a pool,” Bethel’s pastor, the Rev. Anthony Gilmore, said.
Opening their doors to welcome Bethel Community Church was a good idea “because as a church, we were looking at how we could use our building to have a greater impact on the community,” said Temple’s pastor, the Rev. Antony Bernard.
Since then, the two parishes not only shared the building for services and programs, but also sometimes had shared services, according to Bernard, who said the relationship was a great match for both.
“We have had a great partnership,” Bernard said. “We have fit well together.”
Bethel has been around since 2009 when it evolved from a 35-person Bible study group at the Fairfield Community Center into a parish that had to meet at a couple of other locations that included Grace Episcopal Church.
Earlier this year, Bernard and his parish started examining what future course Temple Baptist Church should set. One of the decisions was to sell the building to Bethel Community Church and restart Temple Baptist Church in a new location.
“We saw that they were thriving and we were treading water,” Bernard said.
Temple will stay in the church through 2014 while putting together a new ministry plan, and then find a temporary location where the congregation can launch the parish’s new direction.
“We want to add new things to what we are doing, adjust who we are trying to reach, and be more out in the community,” Bernard said, without being more specific.
Gilmore said ownership of the church building will allow Bethel to have more space available for church programs and more community outreach, which will involve partnering with Temple on its tutoring program and possibly setting up a food giveaway program, day care and charter school.
“This will allow us to put into action some of our vision plan and form new ministries for the church,” Gilmore said.
Bernard called the change a significant transition for his parish, pointing out, “This building is not the church; our people are the church.”
“God has clearly been in this,” Bernard said. “This allows us to move ahead to become a more thriving parish in a different location.”
“I could not agree more,” Gilmore said. “This (building) has everything plus some to allow us to do the things we are called to do.”
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