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Church expansion built on foundation of faith

The Rev. William Tassey and his congregation believe their church _ Faith Baptist Church _ is aptly named.

One reason for their unerring faith is the gift of the church's remodeled and enlarged auditorium at 175 Springtime St.

"I never dreamed we could get it done," said Virginia Styles, a 74-year-old widow who has attended Faith Baptist since its founding. "We're a small church with no rich people."

Styles said she was introduced to Faith Baptist by a neighbor, heard its Bible-based preaching and has been returning every Sunday. She also was impressed with the friendliness of the members and the compassion each has for one another.

When asked about the completed project, Styles said: "We had a nice church before, but now it's almost elegant."

Roger Bentley credits much of the church's success to Tassey's preaching abilities. "It's probably a God-given talent that he's a teacher as well as a preacher. People are searching for the truth, and they hear it from him," said Bentley.

When he first saw an artist's rendering of the proposed renovated building, Bentley felt it was somewhat grandiose, but said there was a definite need for enlarging the auditorium.

"Several times we had to put chairs in the aisles to accommodate worshipers," he said.

Bentley has been involved in the renovation process. He installed the sound system and public address system and worked on other electrical necessities.

"It's such a blessing we've been able to accomplish (the work) in such a short time without borrowing money," Bentley said.

Faith Baptist Church was founded in 1981, when members met in a private home in Pasco County. Worship services began at the present location in 1982. When Tassey became pastor six years ago, he acquired 22 congregants, and the church was $105,000 in debt.

There now are 200 members; some Sundays draw 250 or more.

The need for more space was clearly apparent, and a building-fund drive was begun "because we didn't want to borrow," Tassey said.

The original structure was a corrugated metal building. In addition to the auditorium, which was used regularly for morning and evening worship services, adult Sunday school, prayer services and Bible study, there was a nursery, office and children's Sunday school space. The auditorium seated 120 people.

Although a contractor estimated the work would cost $180,000 to $200,000, the project was completed for $60,000.

How?

In addition to church volunteers working for free, Tassey found Christians from other churches willing to help for reduced labor fees.

Tassey found a general contractor who did all of the contracting paperwork free. The contractor, who wants no publicity, was responsible for Tassey hooking up with a labor force that worked for less than regular fees.

The 56-year-old married pastor and father of three children designed the renovations, did all of the negotiating for materials and struck the deals. All of his work was checked for accuracy by the contractor.

An example of Tassey's bargaining expertise: First Baptist Church of North Mobile advertised 44 5-year-old pews for $30,000. Tassey was able to negotiate with the church, located in Saraland, Ala., for the purchase of 32 pews for $5,500.

Work on the church began in April and was expected to be completed in November.

"Things slowed down. We ran out of money three times and decided to wait until we got more," Tassey said.

At one point, Tassey called a friend he had known in college and talked with church friends from the past and told them of his circumstances. "In two weeks, $17,000 came into our hands," Tassey said.

The completed endeavor now houses an auditorium that seats 300, a secretary's/work office, Tassey's office, a library, a Sunday school and meeting room, a nursery with changing table, men's and women's restrooms and closets.

The auditorium was increased by 1,000 square feet; 2,600 additional square feet was added for the lobby and offices.

Kim Kellum, a teacher at Faith Christian Academy School, thought she was led by the Lord to Faith Baptist Church. The few times the project came to a halt, Kellum said, it was "very exciting to see what the Lord can do."

She said she would sit and wait for another miracle.

Her wish is for the church to serve the community and become a place for the unchurched to find salvation.

"I hope we'll become a beacon," she said, "and when our name is mentioned we'll be thought of not only as a church that preaches the Gospel, but a friendly place that continues to grow."

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