By Natasha Clark
The Community Life Center is on the same grounds as First Baptist Church on Parker Street in East Longmeadow. For more photos of the new facitily, click on the link below. |
Reminder Publications photos by Natasha Clark
Assistant Managing Editor
EAST LONGMEADOW Next week First Baptist Church will officially debut its $3.8 million Community Life Center.
The new 22,000-square-foot center will home to recreational activities for the church and surrounding communities. The public will have the opportunity to check out the facility on Sept. 20, when First Baptist hosts a dedication service at 5 p.m., and on Sept. 26 during an open house from noon to 3 p.m. at its 50 Parker St. location. The special guest speaker on Sept. 20 will be Rev. Jonathan Falwell of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va.
"It was our idea and understanding some years ago there was certainly a need for another gymnasium in the community. It was built to serve the needs of our community," David Brown, senior pastor of First Baptist for the last 18 years, said.
To make their project "A Time To Build" a reality, church members raised $2 million and borrowed the rest.
"Our congregation is great, awesome," Brown said about the funds they raised. "They are very unified and focused, and they have a real sacrificial heart for the community. I am very proud of them and pleased and honored to be their pastor."
The center boasts nine to 12 classrooms (some can be divided into two), both male and female locker rooms, a kitchen soon to be completed, a state-of-the-art basketball court with six hoops, bleachers that sit 250, regulated floors and two volleyball courts.
"This is our prized possession," Ministry Assistant Ethan Johnston said. "We hope to rent it out to the Recreation Department and [athletic] leagues."
That invitation is one the East Longmeadow Recreation Department is only happy to accept.
"The indoor sports situation for the East Longmeadow Recreation Department is difficult because we do not own any indoor rec spaces," explained Recreation Department Director Carolyn Porter. "The School Department is our only resource and then we compete with high school indoor sports [for the space]."
She said a gym such as the Community Life Center, which she called a "first class facility," will allow them to potentially expand the programs they currently offer - mainly crossing over into adult leagues and those for the kindergarten age group.
Johnston is hoping that groups and organizations will rent any number of their classrooms for meeting purposes.
"It has so much potential and room to grow," Johnston said.
First Baptist has been a part of East Longmeadow for more than 190 years. Both Johnston and Brown view it as a place to host church-related events and activities that are too large for the sanctuary. In fact, the "A Time To Build" project initially started as an expansion to the church building.
"About 12 to 13 years ago the church began to grow and so we added and additional worship service. In the midst of raising funds for an auditorium, we thought we should change direction and build a community center instead," Brown said.
Johnston said the public is welcome to attend both of their events on the Sept. 20 and 26.
"They are welcomed to come and see what God has blessed and [continues to] bless us," he said.
Porter is also in the process of seeing what need there is for adult and pre-school to kindergarten-aged sports. Residents are encouraged to call her at 525-5437 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with their interest.