Building faith: Local churches growing, building

Published 6:00 am Sunday, January 14, 2018

“So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily.” — Acts 16:5


Area churches have not been immune to the growth of both Oxford and Lafayette County.

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As more people move into the area and settle into new their homes, they are also settling into their new spiritual homes, causing several area churches to invest in expanding by adding new buildings, or in some case, building entirely new churches.

North Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church is one such church that building an entirely new facility.

The new church, under the direction of the Rev. Jamuel Johnson, is being built just a few yards from its current location off County Road 349 in Taylor. A member, Sis. Bernice Martin and her family donated 3 acres of land to the church that is situated closer to the main road.

The first phase will be constructing the main church building, 13,000 square-feet in size, that includes the sanctuary, administrative offices, a library, classrooms, bathrooms, a large mall foyer and departmental facilities.

The new sanctuary will accommodate twice as many people, allowing about 325 people in the sanctuary.

The second phase will include a fellowship and a youth facility.

The current church was built in the early 1970s.

“Although it has served us well, the members believed that the time had come to build,” said Financial Secretary Joni Price. “With the growth of the church and the community, there came a need to build a larger facility to accomplish our goals as well as our future and current needs.”

Construction is expected to be complete in the fall of this year.


New name, new home

Oxford First United Methodist Church, formally known as Burns United Methodist Church, grew quickly in 2016 when the then-Burns UM merged with Hammitt Hill Methodist Church and took on a new name.

Now, the congregation is looking forward to having a new home.

The current location, on the corner of Molly Barr Road and Washington Avenue, is now too small for the growing church.

“We needed more space for the ministries we do,” said Pastor Christopher Diggs.

The new church is being constructed off Old Sardis Road near the Mary Cathey Head Start Center. The new church will be 8,500 square-feet/

“That’s roughly three times our current structure,” Diggs said.

The new facility is one building on 5 acres of land. The sanctuary will fit 225 people, with a fellowship hall seating 144 people, six classrooms, offices and a library.

Construction is expected to be complete in early 2019.



Adding space

Just off the Square, the heart of Oxford, two churches are renovating and expanding their current facilities to provide updated buildings and more space for their congregations.

The Oxford University United Methodist Church has been involved in renovations since the summer of 2016 and Senior Pastor Eddie Rester said everyone is looking forward to seeing the fruits of the construction crews labor when renovations are expected to be complete this summer.

The renovations include a new entry tower and covered walkway to the main building entrance; new contemporary worship space with sound and video systems; new two-story gathering space and new “journey” contemporary worship space; new office suites and reception area; new entry to the second-floor from a new parking deck with large gathering area; larger classrooms and choir practice room; interior renovation of existing classrooms and a two-tiered parking structure with gate access for 52 vehicles.

Before construction started on the new additions to the church, a 10,000-square foot building, built in 1934, was demolished and replaced by a 50,000 square-foot building.

Wesley Hall and the church chapel were not part of the renovation project.

Rester said the church had outgrown many parts of the previous facilities.

“We have a strong sense of being partners with the Oxford and university communities,” he said. “We wanted facilities that could be utilized by those communities.”

The congregation had to make some concessions during construction, Rester said. Adult Sunday School classes were canceled for several months and children’s classrooms were moved into the adult spaces.

“There’s been limited access to bathrooms and parking spaces and a lot of mud,” he said.

Rester said the church will hold several special events to allow the community to see the new facilities once construction is complete.

St. John’s Catholic Church has also been expanding its main church over the last year. The new addition is 26 feet in depth and 87 feet in width, which will allow for 10 more rows of pews and enlarged restroom facilities.

Outside of the city of Oxford, Anchor Baptist Church on Highway 7 near Water Valley is building a two-story activity center next to the current church. The top floor will house youth activities and the bottom floor will be a fellowship hall with a full commercial kitchen and gathering area.