God's plan, Baptist work, Catholic help
January 24 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

God's plan, Baptist work, Catholic help | Friday, Jan. 24, 2003

Friday, Jan. 24, 2003

God's plan, Baptist work, Catholic help

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

When the giant logging equipment started chewing up trees near Cary's WestHigh Road on Jan. 15, Westwood Baptist Church moved one step closer to planting itself as a permanent and growing fixture in the burgeoning community.

Westwood's history is similar to other new churches in some ways, but with a few unusual twists.

It began with a 1989 appeal from the Raleigh Baptist Association, seeking sponsors for a new church on the rapidly growing western side of Cary. Greenwood Forest, Woodhaven, Good Hope, Collins Grove and Salem Baptist churches signed on to offer varying levels of assistance, with Greenwood Forest church in Cary taking the lead.

A steering committee endorsed Tom Ogburn to become the founding pastor. Volunteers from the churches helped renovate rented space in a building that included a convenience store, and a group of volunteers blitzed the community with phone calls inviting interested persons to attend the mission's first service on Easter Sunday of 1990.

More than 100 supporters and prospective members attended, but the first two years were a struggle. During that time the fledgling congregation of about 50 souls did the hard work of building a budget base, writing a constitution, and becoming established as a self-supporting church.

In 1993, Ogburn engineered the purchase of 12.6 acres of prime property on High House Road, for the surprisingly reasonable price of $250,000.

Within the year, however, Ogburn and his wife, Beth, felt led into global missions and were appointed by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship as missionaries to Thailand.

The congregation forged ahead, calling Charles Allard as pastor later that year and making plans for the new property.

The church constructed a flexible facility to serve the needs of about 200 congregants, completing the major work in 1996, upgrading some unfinished areas over the next two years, then expanding the parking area.

Membership grew to 140 in 2001 to nearly 300 in 2002, leading the church to hold dual worship and Sunday School programs, and to rent four classrooms from the adjacent St. Michael the Archangel Catholic church.

As church leaders pondered an expansion of their facilities, Father John Wall of St. Michael's approached Allard with a surprising proposition. St. Michael's, which had relocated to the area and had already constructed a large complex of buildings, was also running out of space. Would Westwood consider selling their property to the Catholics?

After negotiating a price of $2.5 million - more than twice Westwood's initial investment in the property and its building - the church agreed.

The church paid off its indebtedness, put money in the bank, and spent $953,000 for an 11-acre site about two miles away. It is now embarking on an ambitious campaign to construct a $5 million facility with educational space for 700 and a sanctuary to seat 1,000 people.

Allard said the church conducted a self-led capital campaign that netted three-year pledges of $1.2 million from the church's current 310 members.

But money and buildings are not the only story at Westwood. The church has been active in hands-on mission projects from the start, including overseas mission trips and a major "Operation Inasmuch" effort last October.

And, Allard plans to baptize at least 12 new members on Feb. 2, including four adults who made professions of faith during the holiday season.

Baptists planned and Catholics helped, but it is God's work they are about, Allard says: "Joining God in His work is the most exciting thing a believer can do."

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1/24/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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