Changing locations provides new opportunities for First Baptist Church in Tillsonburg

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For the past decade, First Baptist Church in Tillsonburg has been working towards building a new church facility. And after 10 years of moving in that direction, their goal is coming into focus.

"A lot of people in the community have been really curious about what we're doing," said First Baptist Church Pastor Steve Amorin, noting First Baptist Church will be building a new 11,000 square foot facility on 5.3 acres of land, which was purchased in 2011, just behind McDonald's on Harvest Street.

"A lot of people are wondering, 'what's First Baptist Church up to?' Some people thought we are shutting down, which we are not doing. Some people thought we were already in the new building, which we are not either."

First Baptist Church anticipates breaking ground on their new building in early 2019.

"Until then, we've got a bit of fundraising to finish up. Hopefully less than two years, a year and a half, until we're breaking ground and getting that whole project underway."

The new facility will allow FBC to have 'great accessibility' (all on one level) with ample parking. It will be a modern facility to run their ministry, and "really give them an opportunity to think of the future and have the right amount of space to keep growing and doing what we do as a church," said Amorin. "It's exciting. It's really an exciting project."

While their old building, built in 1950, had more square footage, it was not efficient as a church with a lot of small storage rooms. On the same site, their earlier church built in 1894, had burned down.

"So we've been at that location for over 123 years - that's a long time," said Amorin, noting First Baptist Church's roots in town go back to 1853.

The existing First Baptist Church building was sold to the St. Thomas Early Learning Centre and FBC's worship services have moved to temporary facilities. FBC now gathers Sunday mornings at the Lions Auditorium in the Tillsonburg Community Centre, with childcare and Sunday school also available on site.

"It's usually around 9:30 in the morning that we're there, some days are different. We've been calling that home for the past two weeks."

Other programs also moved to temporary facilities. Their Thursday night Alpha program is running at Carriage Hall on Brock Street West, with about 40 people. The younger youth group meets at South Ridge Public School, while the older youth group meets at Upper Deck. The town library has been used for other groups. And Harvest Retirement Community has been used by their 40-member crafter group.

"We're just kind of spreading out in the community and really connecting with a lot of people that you normally wouldn't if you're in a church building.

"This whole season is, first of all, working towards the new building, but also making the most of opportunities to connect with people in the community. As a pastor, that's a golden opportunity - I love that. This season has also really shown us how mobilized and how dedicated so many of our people are.

"One of the things that I've been sharing is that when you do a move as a family, it's an opportunity to kind of have a fresh start. That's kind of what we're doing right now, it's a fresh start for our church family. A lot of things have changed, and that's hard for some people, but we are still a church family. That hasn't changed.

"Something I've been telling our people, that church is definitely not the building. It's the people. And this is showing us what that really means, this season."

FBC Ministry Centre

FBC Ministry Centre opened its doors (temporarily) at 169 Broadway, Unit B. It's open Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.

"It's a nice spot on a busy stretch of Broadway to be planted for the next little while," said Amorin.

The Ministry Centre is open for people to connect with information, meet pastors, have meetings, access the church library, and hold small group bible study (and other groups) throughout the week.

"The really cool thing is that we're looking at our temporary space as a real opportunity. We look at the area where the complex is and we know there are not a lot of churches in that area... so we're anticipating that over the next year-and-a-half to two years that we're there, it's an opportunity to really reach out in the community and be a church in a place where there isn't much church presence."

Amorin quoted a statistic - that 67 per of people don't feel like they would fit in a church or congregation.

"What we want to do as a church is be as welcoming and inviting as possible, and connect with people who normally wouldn't want to connect with 'church.' I think being in the Community Centre is really an opportunity to bridge and connect with people. It's like common ground, everyone's been to the Lions Auditorium, they know the space. So we're hoping it will be a more inviting opportunity for people to connect with church."

Some good connections have already been made in the area, and he expects more to come.

"We're just going to do our best where we're planted... for this temporary time."

For details on FBC church services call 519-842-8762 or go to www.fbctillsonburg.com.

"It certainly takes time," Amorin summed up. "It's quite a journey to go on with a church family." 

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