BROOKSVILLE — With a nearly 25,000-square-foot church building under construction on 15 acres, Brooksville Wesleyan Church's senior pastor is looking forward to having more elbow room for worshippers and expanding the church's ministries.
"We're excited," said the Rev. Marlin Mull about the new building at 22319 Cortez Blvd., which is close to its present facilities on the east edge of Brooksville. "During the winter months, when our attendance is around 700, it's been wall to wall and we overflow into the chapel."
With seating for 1,200, the new sanctuary will double the current sanctuary's capacity.
There will be several classrooms, a nursery and a chapel, along with a large foyer in the enclosed area, and covered entries and walks outside.
"We hope to have the capacity to better serve the community and the current church," Mull said. "It will enlarge our Christian education space, worship seating and allow us to become more of a full-orbed church reaching all ages. The new church will also greatly improve our sound and lighting."
The property came in a trade with the Wesleyan Bible Conference Association.
"They swapped us the property for our current building. So the future of the building we're in now will be a decision made by them," Mull said.
The projected cost of the new building is $4.1 million. More than half of that amount has already been raised by church members.
Mull said the goal of the church is to have it paid for by the end of construction, scheduled for June of next year.
"Right now we're at 70 percent equity," he said. "The property itself is worth half a million dollars and is already paid for. In three years, we have raised $2.8 million."
The church was founded in 1957 by the Rev. Foster Piatt, who lives in Hudson. He was also its first pastor.
"He also founded the Florida District of the Wesleyan Church," Mull said. "Most of the (Wesleyan) churches in Florida were founded by him."
The original church, built after the congregation met for a while in a house adjacent to the church, is still on its current site.
"It's part of the current church," Mull explained. "We use it for chapel and Sunday school classes. It seats about 100."
The present sanctuary was added 17 years ago during the last building program.
Many in the congregation come from the nearby Wesleyan Village, arriving in golf carts for services. As with the current church, the new site will have parking space for 100 carts.
Mull said services will continue to be Bible-based and use a traditional style of music.
"We use hymn books," he said. "Right now our primary ministry is to senior citizens, because that's who's here. It's not that we don't want younger families. We do want them, but we don't have anywhere to put them."
One of the main ministries of the church is its music program, with a 75-voice choir and an orchestra for evening services. That program will continue, as will the popular annual concert series, which brings in well-known Christian artists such as Steve Green and the Collingsworth Family.
There are plans to expand the current ministries to reach younger families. With the new facilities, the church will be able to offer Christian education and youth programs, Mull said.
"That will take some time, but we'll offer a wider range," he said.
While working at the denomination's headquarters in Indianapolis for 12 years, Mull helped start 400 new churches. He found that all kinds of worship styles appeal to young people, including traditional and contemporary.
"You rarely can find a church that can be everything to everybody," he said. "You want to, and everybody is welcome. But we found that whatever you do best, do that."
With a future goal of reaching more people, the church has set aside $100,000 to start another church congregation in the county.
"It will probably be more youth-oriented and have a newer style of music with another pastor," Mull said. "We're hoping to start a church planter's workshop this summer with leaders from our denomination's headquarters."
Mull, who will be 78 in May, has been the church's minister since July 2006. His current term as pastor runs until July 2012.
"I promised to stay with them until my 80th birthday," he said. "Our greatest resource, other than God's presence, is a congregation of people who love each other and those who come and worship with us. This new location will move our facility out on a main highway and give us better visibility to the community."