Two Louisville congregations consider swapping sites
Louisville—If all goes well, by this time next year two Baptist families of believers will have successfully traded places and will be settled into their newly-renovated historic homes, just blocks apart near downtown Louisville.
Lampton Baptist Church and Immanuel Baptist Church are in negotiations for Immanuel to purchase Lampton’s facility on 4th Street. As part of the deal, Lampton will receive Immanuel’s Shelby Park facilities, located less than a mile away.
It’s a providential move for both congregations.
Lampton has called the 60,000-square foot Beaux Arts building at the corner of Fourth and Breckinridge home since 1977. But the building, which was completed in 1911, has proved difficult for the congregation to maintain over the last several years, and was placed on the “Most Endangered Historic Places” list by Preservation Louisville in 2013.
Last winter’s record-breaking cold took its toll on the structure. Pipes froze and burst, causing damage to the area that the congregation was using to worship. The congregation has been meeting on the original campus of Simmons College at the corner of 18th and Dumesnil, said Pastor Robert Lyons, who joined the congregation in February.
Meanwhile, just a few blocks away in the Shelby Park neighborhood, Immanuel Baptist Church is outgrowing their 24,900 square foot, 110-year-old facility on the corner of South Clay and East Oak streets. When Lead Pastor Ryan Fullerton arrived a little over 10 years ago, the congregation numbered fewer than 20. Today more than 600 members squeeze into two worship services every Sunday in a sanctuary which seats somewhere around 375.
Immanuel needs room to grow, and wants to remain centrally located in Louisville. Fullerton and Immanuel have been praying and exploring possible locations for two years.
“For years I have been aware of the Lampton property. For years I have loved it,” said Fullerton. The grand limestone building is three times the size of Immanuel’s current facility, and features a “beautiful domed roof and ornate plaster moldings throughout the auditorium.”
When Lampton decided to put their building on the market in August, Immanuel was eager to talk.
As conversations progressed, the idea of including Immanuel’s facilities in the deal became part of the possibility.
It was an attractive prospect for Lyons, who lives in the Shelby Park neighborhood and has a strong desire to see the church minister there.
“We are definitely in a neighborhood where a strong church presence is needed, a church people can call their own, and we can minister to the people of that neighborhood,” said Lyons.
The deal isn’t completely done, however. Immanuel will spend the next 30-60 days assessing the repairs and renovations that will make the building suitable for its purpose.
“We are currently assessing everything from restoring the historic crown molding in the auditorium to replacing the HVAC,” said Fullerton. The bones of the building look very strong, but the renovations will be extensive, he noted.
Due to the historic nature of the building, Immanuel’s Executive Pastor Ben Hedrick is working with David Heyne, architect and owner of Full Circle Architecture, on the assessment.
After the assessment is complete, Immanuel will then have 30 days to close on the property, according to Lyons. After that, renovations can begin. Lyons is hopeful that Lampton can be settled into their new home by next summer, but he knows that Immanuel’s renovations could take longer.
Lyons said he has witness God at work in a powerful way throughout the process.
“God saw what they needed on their side, what they had been praying for, and God absolutely answered our prayers,” said Lyons.
Anyone who knows real estate knows a commercial building can sit for years, and once it’s sold, finding a building can take years, Lyons explained.
“For God to do all that in the stroke of the pen is miraculous,” he said. (WR)