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A time to BUILD

James Stanley is putting in a lot of extra work hours these days.

A concrete subcontractor, Stanley has been spending his afternoons working at the construction site of Bayview Baptist Church on Meadow Lark Lane, joining his fellow church members in erecting the 3,200-square-foot metal structure that will become the congregation's home.

"That's my church there," he said, pointing to the fenced-in site from inside his beat-up blue pickup truck. "We are trying to do it all through the work of members and volunteers."

The work is slow. Volunteers such as Stanley have their regular jobs to work around. The pieces of the building lie to one side of the site like a giant erector set waiting to be put together. Pews donated from another church are stacked together under a canopy of oak trees in the back.

Stanley and most of the other roughly 200 members of Bayview Baptist Church have been working at the site for three weeks now. Those skilled in a trade lay pipe or prepare the ground for the foundation. Others clear brush, bring food, or simply keep the workers company.

"Everyone is coming out," Stanley said. "We are trying to save a buck."

Although the building is just going up now, the Bayview Baptist Church was born Oct. 6, 1974, when members of the predominantly black Mount Carmel Baptist Church held a race-relations improvement service with the mainly white congregation of Skycrest Baptist Church. They swapped ministers, each giving a sermon in the other's church, and families from the two congregations went home with one another for fellowship and learning.

Things went so well that six members from each church formed the Bayview Mission, the precursor to Bayview Baptist Church, and started holding services in the Clearwater Housing Authority's administration building at Condon Gardens. There services stayed for the next 21 years.

The Rev. Walter Campbell has been at the helm of Bayview Baptist Church since its inception. Campbell and his wife Annie, along with Stanley and his wife, Ominor, are four of the original six members who left Mount Carmel to form Bayview.

"There was no church in this area," Campbell said of the Condon Gardens neighborhood. "You know, a community isn't complete without a church."

Campbell said a foundation was established to build up membership to support the church. Through door-to-door visitation in the Cordon Gardens area, membership grew, providing a fledgling financial base. After 10 years, church members raised enough money _ $48,000 _ to buy eleven adjoining lots two blocks from where they currently meet.

"Buying the land brought our budget back down to next to nothing," Campbell said. "So we started building it again with a building fund."

To this point, the church facility has cost $100,000, and that's just for the outside shell. Campbell thinks $50,000 more will be necessary to complete the inside of the building, landscape the property and install a parking lot. He's hoping for donations.

"It's a dream that's become a reality," Campbell said. "It's like a view of the promised land. We haven't quite reached it, but we can see it."

YOU CAN HELP:

Donations to Bayview Baptist Church's building fund can be mailed to P.O. Box 1108, Clearwater, FL 34617. Campbell can be reached at 447-5238.

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