While many religious groups across the U.S. and the North Fork are faced with declining membership, forcing some to shut their doors altogether, the First Baptist Church of Cutchogue is delighted to have the opposite of that problem.
After nearly a century in its historic church building located on a small parcel of land on Route 48, the congregation is reigniting plans to move into a new, larger building.
The church previously ran out of money to finish the new building’s construction.
Pastor Cornelius Fulford said Thursday that 2015 will mark the year work is completed on the new church. Construction had begun in April 2001.
The 9,600-square foot church building is located on a four-acre parcel that’s about one mile west from the current church. It is needed to better accommodate its parishioners, as well as other community organizations looking to use the space for meetings, the pastor said.
“In 2015, we are going to work hard to get into this church,” he said. “God let us know it might take a little time, but we will complete the vision that God gave us.”
Founded in 1924, the First Baptist Church of Cutchogue is one of the oldest black sanctuaries on eastern Long Island. Initially, services were held in the little schoolhouse on Oregon Road until membership outgrew the building. The congregation then constructed its current building in November 1928.
Today, the church has more than 100 members and it needs to be moved again, Rev. Fulford said.
Since purchasing the property, the church has been raising funds for construction. Over the years, the church has run out of money to continue building.
So far, the church has raised more than $1 million for the project, allowing the church to buy the property and start building. But the church still needs roughly $700,000 more to finish the inside of the building. Some financing is in place to start some of the work in the coming year.
Items on the to-do list include: installing plumbing, an electrical system, parking lot, landscaping and construction of the altar, Rev. Fulford said.
The problem with the current location simply comes down to space, Rev. Fulford said. The pastor’s study is small and shared with the treasurer and deacons. The computer, file cabinets, desk and a copier have to be stored in the basement. The bathroom is also in the basement and is difficult for the elderly to reach.
Once complete, the new church will have offices, a space to perform baptisms, restrooms on the main floor and room for other groups, such as addiction groups, to hold meetings — all features the existing church lacks.
“When it comes to the ministry, it is about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and also to be a place for rehabilitation for those dependent on alcohol or drugs in the community,” he said. “We just don’t have the facility to help those people now. We do the best we can with what we have, but we need to reach out to those lost souls and show them there is hope.
“That is what we are all about.”
The parish has yet to determine what it will do with the historic building, although the pastor said he has spoken to the historical society about preservation.
There is also no exact date set for the opening of the new church, since much of that is dependent on raising funds.