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Church gets helping hand for move to new community

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP)–Hollywood Baptist Church in the
Frayser community of Memphis, Tenn., decided to relocate
last April from a community which had changed from being
predominantly white and middle-class over the years to
lower-income, African American.
“Through the transition of the community, we felt for
our church to survive we had to relocate,” said pastor Kelly
Smith, who acknowledged the decision to relocate, while
needed, was painful.
“That’s the way it is when a church has to look at
transition,” Smith reflected.
One of about 14 Southern Baptist congregations within a
six-mile radius of each other, Hollywood put its property up
for sale and bought 13 acres in the Bartlett area of metro
Memphis. Thinking it would take a long time to sell, the
church not prepared when its building sold within a matter
of months, Smith said.
The church wasn’t yet ready to build yet was without a
home, Smith noted, adding the congregation searched for
about four months to find a place where they could continue
to meet until they built.
A sister church about a mile away stepped forward and
offered a helping hand.
Sky View Baptist Church, led by pastor Ricky Ray,
offered the use of their old sanctuary, which Sky View had
been using as Sunday school space. Hollywood and Sky View
began sharing facilities in October.
“Through their invitation, we kept all of our
ministries functioning,” Smith said.
In addition, two other nearby Southern Baptist churches
— Ardmore and Eudora — allowed Hollywood to store some of
its property at their churches at no cost.
“Without all their help we could not have done this,”
Smith said.
Hollywood pays no rent but pays a portion of the
utility bills.
Hollywood hopes to break ground for its new facility in
March and be relocated by late fall, Smith said.
In the meantime, there have been no major problems with
two churches at the same location, he said.
Each church has its own worship and Sunday school
space. The congregations share a fellowship hall and nursery
workers. During the Christmas holidays, there was an
occasional scheduling conflict but the two congregations
were flexible and worked them out, the two pastors agreed.
“Ricky and I have a good relationship,” Smith said,
noting the two congregations have had several joint worship
services. The venture has been a good example of brothers
and sisters in Christ working together in cooperation, Smith
Hollywood has been able to maintain a church office
with its own secretary. Sky View provided a separate phone
line so Hollywood could receive its own calls, Smith said.
“Our people are very thankful,” he added.
Having another congregation around has not negatively
affected Sky View, said member Benny Murray.
“We had room,” Murray said. “They’re maintaining their
identity which is important to them.”
Michael Johnson, another Sky View member, agreed. “This
has not affected us. I’m glad we could open up the doors to
another church.”
Ray said he sees the relationship as an experiment —
autonomy with partnership. It also provides an option to
churches in transition, added Ray, who noted Sky View also
is in the process of purchasing property with intentions to
eventually relocate as well.
As for the Hollywood congregation, which had seen its
attendance at its old location drop to the low 70s, they are
anticipating an opportunity to grow at a new site. “We’re
moving to an area which is the second fastest-growing area
in Shelby County,” Smith said.
“We’re very excited about the opportunity before us as
a church. Our people are taking a very large step of faith.
“We had been in a maintenance mode for a long time.
It’s exciting to see their step of faith,” he noted.

    About the Author

  • Lonnie Wilkey

    Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

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