BROOKVILLE, Ohio—The last day of 2006 is a time Bible Baptist Fellowship members and visitors will not forget. They were able to hold their first church service in their new building, a former bank, in Brookville, Ohio.
That’s right—church pews located mere feet from a fully functioning vault.
The building, at 132 Market Street, is more than 100 years old. Built in 1900, the building originally featured an opera house on its second floor. Over the years, the second floor area, which was home to the Pastime Theatre of Citizens Banking Company, was host for traveling shows, silent movies, and railroad meetings and later became the location for Brookville school graduation ceremonies. Back in 1914, adults could enjoy a movie in the theater for 10 cents and children could do the same for 5 cents. In the past, the lower level of the building housed a post office, a hardware store, a bakery, restaurants, and other businesses. In the early years a rifle group even used the large basement as a rifle range.
In 1934 the building became home for Brookville National Bank and prior to this was the site of the Brookville Farmer and Merchants Bank, which closed during the Depression. Now the building’s diverse purpose continues with Bible Baptist Fellowship’s occupancy. In addition, like many buildings with a rich history, tragedy has occurred at this location in the form of past fires.
Wayne Watkins, president of the Brookville Historical Society, said, “Really, this building is the most prestigious one in town. We were hoping someone who would appreciate its historical significance would move in, and I think our prayers have been answered.”
Bible Baptist Fellowship has been working hard to convert the building into its new church home. Although the renovations are not complete, members expressed thankfulness at being able to hold their first services the morning and evening of New Year’s Eve. What better way to end the year?
“Who didn’t help to get the building ready? Everyone worked very hard,” said Laird Baldwin, pastor of Bible Baptist Fellowship. “We are so grateful to the Lord for how He has taken care of us and helped us. . . . It doesn’t look like a bank anymore, and aren’t you glad?” The congregation responded with a chorus of “Amen!”
Bible Baptist Fellowship was organized as a church July 8, 2006, and was voted in to the Ohio Association of Regular Baptist Churches that year on October 23.
Before its purchase of the building in Brookville, the fellowship met regularly for Sunday services in a gymnasium and library of a community center in a village of homes. Prior to and at the end of each service, members had to set up and take down chairs; bring in and out hymnals and Sunday School material; and carry in and out a keyboard, a pulpit, and other items. Prayer meetings and Bible studies were held at members’ homes. Needless to say, the fellowship is thrilled to now have a church home.
During the morning service on New Year’s Eve, Pastor Baldwin joked, “I even like the wreath hanging on the vault.” In the near future, the fellowship plans to conceal the vault so it “does not look like a big place for offerings.”
Angela Barker is a member of Bible Baptist Fellowship