The congregation at St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in Chapel Hill has big plans. Make that BIG plans.
"We believe that this is St. Paul's season," says the Rev. Thomas O. Nixon, St. Paul's pastor.
This past Friday, the church held a kick-off banquet for a major multi-stage project in the Rogers Road area on the north side of town. Church leaders envision a sprawling complex on 23 acres, featuring mixed-use affordable housing, a day care, athletic fields, senior citizen assisted living, a multicultural center, and more. The centerpiece will be a new worship sanctuary and fellowship hall for the church. It will all be designed to be environmentally sensitive, preserving areas of natural beauty.
"One of the desires of this vision was to provide a holistic ministry for the congregation," says Rev. Nixon. "That we not only meet the spiritual needs but the mental, educational, and economic needs, and to deal with every age group of the congregation. We have a very diverse age group in our congregation."
The church purchased the land for St. Paul AME Village several years ago. Rev. Nixon told me that they hope to break ground on the first phase, which will feature the new sanctuary, fellowship hall and day care, by the end of the year. The cost estimate for that is 3 to 4 million dollars. Church leaders plan to spread the entire project out over ten years.
But wait a minute. Isn't there something called an economic downturn going on right now?
"I don't preach or believe that the God that we serve is in an economic crisis," says Nixon. "I tell people, the one person you never see in the unemployment line or worrying about the economy is the drug dealer. So, the money is here. The challenge is, do we come out of the comfort of our stained glass windows and sanctuary to go re-direct those funds into Kingdom building?"
It's a huge undertaking. But when your church is 147 years old -- having started during slavery days -- St. Paul's members know what it is to "walk by faith."
Update: I reported in my last post about plans to make the faith-based movie Secrets in the Snow in Raleigh if enough seed money could be raised. Well, guess what: they reached their goal. And co-producer Brittany Goodwin emailed supporters that "every amount over the goal will go towards our final goal to cover costs of editing, marketing, etc." Filming should take place next month.
North Carolina’s most famous religious figure releases his newest book –- his 30th -- this week. The Rev. Billy Graham turns 93 next month, and appropriately enough, the book is about aging. You can read an excerpt from Nearing Home: Life, Faith and Finishing Well at this link.
They say music is the universal language. And I can think of no greater example than the Heritage Mass Choir. This group from South Korea loves African-American gospel music. I can't understand what they're saying -- but I can understand what they're saying! Check 'em out here.