First Baptist votes to sell downtown property

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY -- The old First Baptist Church of Albany building on Pine Avenue is expected to change hands soon.

During its quarterly church conference this week, members of First Baptist voted to sell the church's downtown property, including the church facilities and parking lot, to Friendship Missionary Baptist Church.

"It passed with a strong majority by the members attending the conference," the Rev. William "Butch" Knight, First Baptist senior pastor, said.

That came on the heels of a recommendation that was unanimously approved by the church's deacons, the pastor said.

After First Baptist broke ground to move its 1,025-member congregation to Lee County's Oakland Parkway in May 2007, talks with Friendship, which is currently located at 714 West Broad Ave., opened.

"Pastor H.B. Johnson approached me in September of 2007 expressing Friendship's interest in purchasing the property," Knight said.

Because the process is still under way, the purchase price of the property has not yet been made available.

"Once the sale goes through, it will be public record," Knight said. "But I don't know if it would be prudent to announce it at this time."

While the pending sale consists of First Baptist's buildings and parking lot, it doesn't include all of the church's downtown property.

"There are two lots on the southwest corner that we did not sell," Knight said.

But the senior pastor anticipates the Friendship congregation to be able to take possession of the property that is to be purchased in the spring. "If all goes well," Knight said.

The sale should not obstruct any of First Baptist's regular functions, as most are contained in the Oakland facility that opened in 2008.

However, the question of how Father's Kitchen, the church's ministry to feed Albany's homeless two Saturdays a month, will be affected is yet to be resolved.

"Friendship has shared a willingness to continue that ministry," Knight said.

The pastor also said he and Johnson are hopeful that the planned sale will create opportunities for Friendship and First Baptist to work together.

"He and I both have lifted up the opportunity for both of our churches to work together in prayer," Knight said.

One such opportunity is for First Baptist members to guide Friendship in forming a sports ministry.

"We (First Baptist) have pledged our support in helping them start an Upward Basketball program," Knight said.

With the sale of the property OK'd by the First Baptist congregation, all that's left is for "the regular typical real estate transfer process to take place," Knight said.

Efforts to reach Johnson on Friday for comment were unsuccessful.