Historic Cocke County church moves from downtown location
NEWPORT — A new era began Oct. 16 at First Baptist Church, Newport.
After 67 years at its previous location in downtown Newport, the church moved to its new facility on 10 acres of land on the outskirts of the city, overlooking the mountains.
The move culminated a 15-year process, said pastor Rich Lloyd who has served at First Baptist Church for 22 years.
He acknowledged that it took awhile for members of the 146-year-old church to realize that a move was in the best interests of the church.
“It helped that our building was old,” Lloyd said, noting that renovation costs for the former building, which was dedicated in 1955, would be enormous.
In addition, the church was landlocked and had no parking.
The hardest part of deciding to move was emotional, he said.
“We have members whose parents and grandparents grew up and were married in the church,” he said.
The former building was “a holy place” for many members, he added.
“Over time, we got on the same page but it was a challenge because some members did not want to move,” Lloyd acknowledged. “At the end of the day, we became united in the process.”
The pastor said there is no doubt that “God’s hand has been on the church throughout the entire process.
To build this building during the middle of a pandemic has to be an act of God,” he said.
Early on, the church bought five acres on Amanda Circle. Someone also donated an additional five acres to the church, Lloyd said.
The church held three “One Great Day Offerings.” Members were asked to give at least one week’s salary to the offering.
The offerings raised three times the amount of the church’s annual giving. “It was a God thing,” the pastor acknowledged.
“We have seen the ‘widow’s mite,’ ” and gifts with ‘a lot of 0s.’ They all have been sacrificial gifts.”
Lloyd said the church owes less than $1.5 million on an estimated $4.5 million facility which includes a sanctuary, Sunday School rooms, offices, space for the 4-year-old school and more.
The church also plans to add a second building soon which will include a fellowship hall, he added.
Lloyd said that throughout the process he thought about members who sacrificed for the former building in 1955. “They gave so much to future generations.”
The pastor has that same desire. “We don’t want to provide space just for us, but for the people of God who will come in the future.”
Lloyd said the new building reflects that “we are a different church than we were in 1955.” The new facility is about 25,000 square feet compared to 65,000 square feet in the former multi-floor building. It is the fourth sanctuary in the history of the church.
“We are streamlining partly out of what we need and partly based on cost,” Lloyd said. The new sanctuary will seat 300 people compared to 375, he added.
Lloyd is appreciative of all the First Baptist members who gave and sacrificed for the new facility, some of whom will not be around for the dedication service on Nov. 13. “We have a lot of people who supported this effort who will be watching the dedication from heaven,” he said.
He reflected that the journey from downtown to a new location “is a story of God working. In His providential care, He has provided. I’m grateful I got to be a part of it.” B&R