Curtain to go up on worship at Hampstead theater NORTH--Manchester * Hampstead * Lineboro


Faith Baptist Church has been blessed with the old movie theater on Main Street in Hampstead.

The congregation is converting it into a house of worship.

Faith Baptist owns land on Cape Horn Road where members are planning to build a church. They were relying on money raised from a day-care program for developmentally disabled adults to help pay for the building.

"After [the former pastor] passed away, and the economy was on a downswing, we were advised not to count on this," said the Rev. Rudy Tidwell, the current pastor.

The congregation has been meeting at the Westminster Rescue Mission and at an area school.

"We were like the Israelites, looking for a home," said Gary Bauer, Hampstead councilman and church member.

Everyone in the congregation was on the lookout for a suitable building.

"A Realtor tried three times to get me to look at it," said Mr. Tidwell of the movie theater.

"In April, I was driving down Main Street and the lights were on in the theater. I looked in and saw this huge auditorium," Mr. Tidwell said.

"The price was right," added Mr. Bauer.

The church closed Dec. 11 on the purchase of the building, which has also been a bowling alley and a flower shop.

The theater has approximately 7,000 square feet, more than enough for what the church has planned.

About 50 percent of the space will be used for educational purposes. There are classrooms on both sides of the sanctuary. Part of the sanctuary will be used for day care. There will also be a fellowship hall where musical concerts can be held.

"It's a perfect building for what we want to do now," said Mr. Tidwell.

Architects are drawing up plans, and the congregation is acting as its own contractor. Volunteers are doing carpentry and other construction work.

The renovation of the building is very important to the pastor.

"We're not cutting any corners," Mr. Tidwell said. "We're in the people business, not the building business. We want people to feel as safe as possible."

No date has been set for the opening of the church.

"We've got some things we need to do," Mr. Bauer said.

There is a construction problem with one of the walls, and work will continue once it is solved.

"We are going beyond what the safety officials expect from us," said Mr. Tidwell. "Their maximum is our minimum. We are putting in extra insulation and other things."

The land on Cape Horn will not be neglected. It will be the site for the primary church building sometime in the future. When that happens, the Main Street building will be used for a before-and-after-school program, and possibly an afternoon kindergarten.

The church already has a preliminary plan to solve possible traffic problems. There will also be handicapped parking and an entrance for the disabled.

The idea is for all people to feel comfortable coming to the church to take part in the activities -- even once the permanent church has been built.

Mr. Tidwell envisions converting part of the theater into a Christian book, music and video store to offer alternatives to secular entertainment.

"There are a number of possibilities for a weekday ministry in that building," said Mr. Tidwell.

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