By Ruthie Critten
Special to The Pathway
MONROE CITY – Nearly three years and eight months after a tornado destroyed the sanctuary of First Baptist Church, Monroe City, the church dedicated its new facilities Nov. 8. Members of the congregation, extended families, neighboring churches and the community all turned out to celebrate God’s goodness with the completion of the sanctuary.
Many visitors and former church members in the crowd, seeing the new church building for the first time, were visibly moved.
“As I think about the day, I am struck by the power that a place of worship has on people,” Milton Baumgardner said. He has served as pastor at First Baptist Church since 1999.
David Tolliver, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, delivered the message for the afternoon dedication. He spoke from Numbers 10:1-10 on God’s silver trumpets.
“God used his trumpets to give direction to the children of Israel at pivotal moments, not unlike the moment today in the life of this church,” Tolliver said. He called upon the church to hear the voice of God and to live out what they’ve already heard.
Earlier that day, the church celebrated its 140th anniversary. Former Pastor Phil Turner from First Baptist Church, St. Clair, preached during the morning service. He challenged the crowd to live out a genuine faith with Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Tim. 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and discipline.”
The new sanctuary is a blend of old and new. Although several large stained-glass windows from the previous sanctuary were broken by the storm, most were salvaged from the 1899 church building and incorporated into the new sanctuary. A pipe organ also was repaired and refinished.
Those touches from the past made the new place of worship feel like home to the congregation.
Before the tornado struck, on Sunday night March 12, 2006, the pastor had opened the church basement for several people to take shelter from the approaching storm. No one was injured.
At that time, the church had nearly completed construction on a multipurpose building with a fellowship hall. The congregation met at a local school building for one week while the interior of the fellowship hall was painted. Since then, worship services have been held in the fellowship hall which sustained only minor damage from the storm. Classrooms and temporary offices were completed in the basement of the fellowship hall by volunteer labor in March 2008.
Before construction started on the new sanctuary, the church decided to demolish a 1957 education wing which was located between the old sanctuary and the fellowship hall so that the new structure could be built on ground level. Two buildings on adjoining lots, which were damaged by the same storm, were purchased and demolished so that the new sanctuary could be expanded.
In addition to the 280-seat sanctuary, the facility includes church offices, a choir room, a nursery, and classrooms. The new addition is 15,790 sq. ft., including a partial basement with some classrooms located on that level.
First Baptist, Monroe City, has been in a building program of some kind for the past nine years. While grateful for God’s provision prior to and following the tornado, they are ready to move on and turn their focus to ministry.
“Now the challenge is given to us to take the momentum this occasion offers us and allow it to be a springboard into an even more glorious future as we seek to impact our community for Christ,” he said.