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Canadian Baptists break ground on seminary housing

COCHRANE, Alberta (BP)–The tip of the shovel held by Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary President Richard Blackaby barely inched its way into the ground hardened by the harsh Canadian winter. Students, faculty and staff huddled together for warmth during a special groundbreaking ceremony on March 12 for 18 new student apartments.

Founded in 1987, the Canadian Seminary is the only theological school of the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists. The small convention of 163 churches nationwide is currently endeavoring to plant 1,000 churches across Canada by 2020. Only 7 percent of Canadians belong to any evangelical church, according to seminary officials.

“Our mandate is to train the church planters and pastors who will reach Canada with the gospel,” Blackaby said. “The Lord of the Harvest is calling out laborers and many of those laborers have no place to live.”

“The seminary is anticipating as many as 40 new students in the fall, a jump that would boost enrollment by 50 percent,” said Randy Bond, vice president for institutional advancement.”

Results of the latest census just released by Stats Canada revealed that the town of Cochrane where the seminary is located is the fastest growing community in Canada.

“Cochrane’s rapid growth has made rental property extremely scarce and cost prohibitive for a seminary family,” Bond said. “With so many coming and the scarcity of rental space in the area, we have no choice but to build. We only have 28 units now and all are full.”

The cost of the project is CDN$1.5 million (approximately US$1 million), which includes the construction of 18 new units and development of a water and sewage system for the seminary property. About $350,000 has been received so far.

“The housing will cost about $50 a square foot,” said Bond. “For every $50 an individual or church donates, they will provide a square foot of living space for a seminary student and his or her family.”

Construction costs are kept to a minimum by utilizing volunteer labor. “Churches, individuals and groups like Texas Baptist Men have literally built this seminary,” Blackaby said.

“While the involvement of volunteers has been of great benefit to the seminary,” noted Bill Falkner, academic dean of the seminary. “Their presence and positive Christian witness have had a great impact on the area. Their accents make them easily identifiable and they are the talk of the town. People are impressed that they would give their time, effort, and money to build a seminary in another country.”

Construction of the apartments will run through the summer and should be completed in time for the new students to move in for the fall semester.

Churches and individuals interested in helping the seminary can contact Randy Bond at [email protected].

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