Members and visitors of Batesville’s Calvary Baptist Church got to enjoy the first worship service in the new church building on Sunday, December 18 after waiting two and a half years.
Approximately 500 attended the morning worship service with special music, a sermon presented by Pastor Paul Middleton and a special slide show.
The slide show began with pictures of the fire that destroyed the relatively new church building in April of 2003. Tears were flowing from many in the congregation’s as pictures were shown. The pictures reflected each week’s progress as the new church was being built.
The original Calvary Baptist Church was organized in October of 1952 on Stage Coach Road in Batesville, according to Boyd Perkins. Perkins and his wife, Martha Rose, are the only remaining charter members of the church.
He remembered that the church had a sawdust floor and they did not have a pastor.
"This building is the fourth one that I have been in and it is beautiful," Perkins said. "We have come a long way. The Lord sure has blessed us."
The first pastor was L.G. Camp in 1953, according to Perkins.
The next ones to join the church after it was organized was James "Shorty" and Corrine Johnson in 1953, Perkins said.
Johnson didn’t get to worship in the new building Sunday, but his funeral service was the first to be held in the new building.
"Mr. Shorty" had been a big part of Calvary Baptist for years and was always very special to the children.
Known as "Tootsie Roll Man," he gave Tootsie Rolls to children for years. He was giving them out 46 years ago and has continued for generations. Amanda Ledbetter, 21-years-old, got them from him as did her daddy, Jamie, 46 years ago while growing up in Calvary Church.
Contractor Glen McCain said construction on the building began in June 2004. He said that it took 16 months to build.
"We guessed that it would take about 14 months, so it took about two months longer than what we thought," said McCain.
"We were real happy with the results. It pretty well came out like we expected it to," he added
Several changes were made from the other building, according to McCain.
Basically, the church went from 23,000 square feet to 53,000 square feet.
"So we more than doubled the size and added the fellowship hall," McCain, who is also a member of the church, said.
"We doubled the capacity in the sanctuary and we probably doubled the amount of Sunday school rooms," he added. "Basically, we doubled everything that we had"
The church contains a choir rehearsal room it never had before.
"The children’s area is top notch," McCain said. "It includes security and space for everybody and space for activities in the rooms."
The builders went an extra step on the sound system.
"That was one of the things that we wanted to make sure that it was first class," the contractor said.
Deacon Calvin Keeton said the church members have kind of been like the children of Israel.
"For two and a half years we have roamed and hadn’t had a home," Keeton said. "This is our home on this hill. We lost it and we were scattered all over Batesville, but the good people of Batesville First Baptist Church, First United Methodist Church, The Civitan, The Security Bank, and Mr. Polk has helped us out and we really appreciate it very much.
"But this morning, we came home," Keeton continued. "This is our home, we love it, and we love our people. We are one big family and our whole family got to come home this morning."
Sherry Elmore served on the building committee. She said the committee had to be very committed to meet every single week.
"It really got us focused not on our personal wishes, but what the church would benefit most from and what would bring Glory to God more," she said.
The pastor, Paul Middleton said that the last two and a half years have not been easy.
He praised the community including First United Methodist Church, Civitans and First Baptist Church who shared their facilities and paid utilities.
"They just opened up their doors and said ‘here’. First Presbyterian Church was one of the first to come to us after the fire and say we want to help," Middleton said.
On Sunday night, the church enjoyed fellowship with food Sunday night, the first time in their new fellowship hall. Afterwards, everyone went into the sanctuary and enjoyed the slide show one more time.
Other building committee members besides McCain and Elmore include Joe Havens, Ken Bloodworth, Janice Dulany, Marcia Kilpatrick, Brady McMillen, and Larry Pratt.