The Rev. Solomon Loud, pastor of New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church, stands at the pulpit of the church’s sanctuary. He and a core group of members renovated the building on North Monroe Street six years ago into a church from a facility on the verge of being condemned. (Jennifer Parks).
ALBANY — A church that started off as a small gathering in the Rev. Solomon Loud’s home has now grown six years later into a congregation of 300 members and several different ministries.
New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church, now located at 209 N. Monroe St., was established on Sept. 16, 2007. Since building a presence there, Loud has adopted a mission for the church to help change the perception of downtown Albany by doing its part to help revitalize it — starting with the block the church is on.
“The church was started six years ago in my living room,” Loud said. “We started there, and the Lord showed me our present location.
“He said this was our home, and the community we need to re-develop.”
When the building was found by Loud and the core membership, he said, it had been run-down. The roof was leaking, in the places there was a roof, and the structure was full of debris. The church’s members came in to help renovate it into a sanctuary space, and in the meantime, Loud said, services were held near Thronateeska Heritage Center for 18 months.
Once the facility was complete, they moved in.
“I got other offers to pastor at other places, but I knew where I needed to be,” the pastor said.
There are now other buildings nearby that serve as extensions of the church. One is a 24-hour day care center that opened up earlier this year at 210 N. Monroe that now has a census of more than 40 children, with roughly a dozen more getting processed.
Next door to that facility is an education center named for Annie Doris Spurlin, an Albany woman who died in a traffic accident in January 2008. It is home to the church’s health and wellness program — which includes an exercise room and classes on healthy eating habits — the youth praise program and after-school tutorials. By early November, the goal is to convert one of the center’s rooms for a computer class, use the main room for a General Educational Development (GED) class with the help of Family Literacy Connection and begin using its kitchen for a soup kitchen.
“I want to educate the community, I want to give the community opportunity and I want the community saved,” Loud said. ” … Six years ago, this was a dark and dreary place. Now there is a brighter sense of love. They (the area’s residents) feel more safe when walking through the community.”
In the coming weeks and months, Loud said the church is hoping to acquire other vacant buildings within the same block to revitalize. Some of the plans the pastor said he would like to see realized includes a community garden, a pre-kindergarten center, a 24-hour or late-night barber shop and beauty salon and a small grocery store.
“There is not anywhere in this area where you can get a gallon of bleach or a dozen eggs,” he said. “We want to re-develop this area and bring pride to this block.
“I believe myself that a community is only as strong as its church sets it … As I find things in the community people need, I want to continue service to the community.
“I believe if we come together as a community, we can change the community.”
Loud said the church has already acquired 204 N. Monroe, which it hopes to turn into an office complex.
“It will be for small businesses that just need an office, not a whole building to work out of, with low overhead,” he said.
In the near future, the plan is to hopefully acquire a building to house the anticipated pre-K center, Loud said.
“We have done great strides,” he said. “We have (come to expand to) four buildings over the last six years. If the Lord will allow us, we will continue to expand.”
Loud said there has been a change not just in the church itself or the look of that block, but the congregation as well — all the more reason why it seemed fitting to have a number of services during New Beginning’s anniversary week to celebrate the occasion.
“(The anniversary) marks another year, and it gives us a measuring stick of how far we have come,” he said. “I attribute that to the grace of God. We really have a reason to celebrate.”
Last week, there were five nights of services as part of the anniversary celebration, which will climax today into two services featuring visiting ministers in the morning and afternoon.