When Harold Small started God’s Family Temple Christian Church, the pastor’s dining room table served as sanctuary.
The nine years following led the congregation through four new locations, but that journey has apparently come to a conclusion.
On Oct. 23, the congregation worshiped together for the first time in the sanctuary of a formerly condemned church on Split Rail Lane.
“We’ve really come a long way,” said Small, and so has the “new” church building, which had been abandoned and condemned for more than a decade.
According to a 1993 article published in The News, the church had been built by pioneer members of Payne’s Memorial Holiness Church in the early 1920s, which eventually moved to its current facility on Marshall Farm Road in the 1950s.
After already changing locations twice, Small had again started property hunting recently after the owner of the church on Starlite Road sold the building. In his search, Small became aware of the damaged church on Split Rail Lane.
“We tried for it and God blessed us, but there was work to be done,” he said.
A lot of work.
The building had been condemned due to major repairs needed to the front vestibule area, which also houses men and women’s restrooms. A licensed contractor was needed to obtain a building permit to make the repairs.
“We were wondering how in the world we were ever going to pay for all of this,” Small said.
In the meantime the congregation worshiped in the old church’s fellowship hall, and a solution eventually emerged.
A member of the congregation told Small that her son, Nazrel Bell, was a contractor who might be able to help.
Bell, who owns and operates N.B. High Quality Construction, happily took on the project.
“That’s who I am,” he said, noting that other contractors had quoted the church $27,000 to $35,000 for the work.
“I just wanted to do it for free.”
Bell seemed amazed walking through the church last week, stepping on new floors, opening new restroom doors which revealed pristine toilets and sinks.
“It was about to go,” he said of the church’s condition. “There was a big old hole in the floor,” he continued, “if you reached under there, the wood was like sand.”
Bell said it took him two days to get a building permit, which was obtained Aug. 23.
Though Bell offered his own services for free, he was impressed with many other contractors, business owners and even churches who also donated their time, labor and money to the restoration.
“I just wanted to give thanks,” he said, explaining how Cooke Rentals, Spencer Funeral Home, Walmart and O’Reilly Auto Parts contributed.
He was especially thankful to Barnes Electric and Nichols Plumbing, Bell said.
“I just started working with these guys, and they were willing to do this,” he said. “I had to hug my electrician. I was blown away.”
The church also held fundraising events such as cookouts and car washes to pay for materials, with members chipping in with labor as well.
“We had a wonderful time,” Small said. “We appreciated all the friends that came over and put hammer to nail.”
On Oct. 20 the building was cleared for occupancy.
“It’s been a journey,” Small said. “I believe this experience has drawn us closer and closer together. We just had an awesome, spiritual service Sunday morning, a very touching service.”
A member told Small, “Pastor, I feel like I’m at home now,” after the service, “and it brings back to mind when Moses was leading the children of Israel,” he said. “They were complaining and murmuring about things that weren’t. But God promised Moses the promised land. And I feel like we have reached the place where God wants us to be.”
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.