The smell of fresh paint and wood filled the sanctuary as the Rev. Chris Winford scanned the bare concrete floors. There, various Bible verses had been carefully penned by members of congregation of First Baptist Church in Brunswick.
“We had the youth and then the senior adult group sign the floors, writing down Bible verses. I signed right under the pulpit. We even had a dad and a daughter who were doing it together ... this is a multigenerational church, which we are very proud of,” he said. “So when the renovation is completed and we have the new flooring over it ... we will literally be standing on the word of God.”
The various passages in handwriting that spans generations also signifies the connection between the past and the present. It is something that has been the theme of the church’s renovation project, which began in early July.
All of it is being done for one simple purpose — to enhance the experience of its congregants while improving the building for future generations. In fact, the project was titled 1 Generation 2 Another, inspired by Psalm 145:4. The Bible verse says, “One generation shall praise your works to another and shall declare your mighty acts.” Winford feels it is a fitting passage to connect to the capital campaign. After all, it was the work of those who came before, Winford says, that has allowed them to reach this point.
“What’s been really great is that this vision was received by the congregation in a unanimous vote ... so there is a real unity here which is just fantastic,” he said. “We know we are standing on the shoulders of those who came before us. Future generations will be standing on our shoulders.”
The $1.5 million modernization project includes completely renovating the church’s sanctuary, updating every aspect of the interior from expanding the stage to refurbishing stain glass windows, changing the color scheme and adding new stadium style seating. The work is being done by a group from North Carolina, Church Interiors, which specializes in this type of construction. Their expertise allows the church to keep important elements of the past while adding new touches, which is precisely Winford’s goal.
“I call it ‘modern-traditional,’ we are keeping the historical architecture of the church but adding new AVL and things like that. We are proud of our heritage but just want to add more to enhance the experience,” he said.
One of the ways they are doing that is by adding state of the art sound equipment.
“I was told that the sound system in here will be so good that if a band like Casting Crowns were to come in ... they wouldn’t even have to bring their sound equipment,” Winford said.
But the church was a fixture in the downtown area long before the advent of new sound technology. It actually dates all the way back to before the Civil War. Beginning in 1855, it first held meetings in the then 15-year-old Glynn Academy building.
“There was a group of 20 or so and they met at Glynn Academy, the white building on the campus now. There is one story in the church’s history ... when the big hurricane hit (in 1898), some farmers came and put their horses and cattle in the building because it was raised up. So that is where they put livestock,” Winford said with a laugh.
“Then in 1858, they constructed their first house of worship on H Street. Thirty years later, in 1890, they began to construct a new worship center on Union and Mansfield, not where our current building is but where our education building is now. That was the sanctuary from 1890 to 1965. It’s pretty cool.”
From there, the church continued to grow with the next large building campaign taking place in the 1960s.
“In 1965 to 1967 with a church budget of $150,000, they broke ground on our current sanctuary at a total $684,000 almost the equivalent of $5 million today. Our church history book says, ‘at that moment many worshipers shared many tears of joy as they participated in this journey,’” Winford said. “That’s how our church was started. I believe we have an obligation to remember those folks and how they sacrificed to start this congregation.”
While the work is underway the church has been holding services in Beach Hall, a more intimate building that also serves as its fellowship hall. But the work hasn’t deterred the faithful from attending, in fact, Winford says more members are coming through the doors.
“We are up in attendance about 6 percent ... which surprised me, but it’s great,” Winford said.
The congregation hopes to be able to move into the renovated sanctuary in November. From there, they plan to hold a number of activities to introduce their new home to the community.
“We will have a grand re-opening. I don’t know the date just yet because that is dependent upon when we get the keys back. But on Dec. 2, we will have a Christmas presentation, which will be a great way to see newly renovated sanctuary,” he said.
“We want to make Brunswick beautiful in all areas. I want, of course, the area the around the church to be beautiful but we want our people to go out and make Brunswick beautiful. I would hope that if our church ceased to exist that people would miss it.”