Southview sells, stays on as renter
    March 22 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

    Southview Baptist Church in Charlotte was born in 1965 from an unconventional conception. No coroner has penciled in the date of its inevitable demise, but the patient is being kept comfortable.

    Administrator of comfort is Joe Denson, Southview pastor since 1976 whose retirement three years ago was simply not accepted by the church. He left on a Sunday and members rescinded his retirement on Wednesday.

    BR photo by Norman Jameson

    Joe Denson led Southview Baptist Church in Charlotte to sell its building, where it continues to worship rent free.

    Now Denson pastors a congregation of about 30 regulars in a building they’ve sold to another church. Iglesia Pentecostal Ebenezer bought the facility for $750,000 and Southview holds the 30-year note with a 10-year privilege to use the facility rent free. Income from the mortgage and member gifts keep Southview operating — helped by the fact that Denson receives no salary.

    Southview peaked in membership at about 180 around 1985.

    Then the neighborhood changed, people aged, young people married and left. “We just did not have the drawing power to keep them or to bring in too many new ones,” said Denson, X-ray honest with the perspective of age and longevity.

    He will be 77 April 18 and has been pastor of Southview since 1976.

    Southview actually and literally was owned by two families who started it. When Denson led an 18-month drive to get the property legally transferred into the hands of the church, those families left.

    Denson came to Southview from his role as education director at his home church, Wilmont Baptist Church, a thriving 300-member congregation with its own school.

    Nineteen attended his first Sunday at Southview.

    But he and Edith, his wife now of 54 years, came to pastor Southview and have been there 34 years, through the rise and fall of the church’s life cycle. He feels fortunate for his church’s situation.

    Without finding a buyer, the church would have had to close by now, its members disbanded. Instead, he said, “We have the best of everything — the church is still intact, the church is being used by more people than ever and the congregation has a place to stay. We’re not merged, not disbanded and it’s going like it ought to.

    “The Lord had to have worked this out because it’s too good for someone to have put together.”

    “To be truthful, we just don’t have that much to offer,” Denson said. “We’re almost a maintenance church, with very loyal people. One of the reasons I stayed is because so many of these people would never go to another church.

    “They would never go. When you get 80 years old and all, they’re stuck in their ways.”  

    The new congregation remodeled the rooms, and performed delayed maintenance on the structure. A black congregation also uses the building, beginning at 7 a.m.

    Denson’s group meets at 10 a.m. and the Hispanic congregation that owns the building meets at 5 p.m. A Korean church met in the facility for 10 years before disbanding.

    Because the Hispanic pastor is not yet credentialed by his denomination, Denson officiates at the weddings of those members.

    Denson, a Wake Forest University grad, said if the church holds its last service before the mortgage it holds is paid off, proceeds will be invested with the Baptist Foundation for missions.

    A fan of the pastor’s school sponsored by First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla., which he has attended for 24 years, Denson was shocked in January when the church’s pastor Mac Brunson, formerly a Baptist State Convention of North Carolina president, presented him the Homer Lindsay Award for a Lifetime of Ministry.

    “It was a total shock,” Denson said. “I was so surprised the only way I could describe it would be like playing Bingo without a card and still being told you won.”

    But Denson said for the next four days at the conference, “it was like being a rock star.”

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    3/22/2010 7:59:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

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