Community, organization rebuilds church

The Olivet Freewill Baptist Church will soon be a parking lot.

The church, which has housed the congregation since 1941, will be demolished and paved after the new building is completed on the adjacent lot to upgrade the accessibility of the church.

The historic church at 409 N. Marion St. laid the foundation for the new building May 18 after the Builders for Christ, a non-profit organization, chose to help them achieve their goal.

Gordon O’Neal, a member of Olivet Freewill Baptist Church, helps hang trusses Tuesday at the new church site off of Marion Street in Carbondale. O’Neal is helping build the church with Builders for Christ, a missionary group based in Georgia. Paul Buff, a volunteer who lived in Carbondale most of his life and now lives in Acworth, Ga., said when the group was coming to build a church in Illinois they asked if he wanted to go.
steve matzker | Daily Egyptian

The Builders for Christ is an organization that provides and coordinates volunteers  to build churches across the country. The group started to build on the Marion Street foundation Monday to kick off the project.

With the help of Builders for Christ, First Southern Bank and several southern Illinois companies, the church will build its third location since it was founded in 1866.

Bishop Albert Ingram Jr., of Carbondale, has been with the church for about 10 years and said the idea for the new building has been in the works for even longer.

He said the church has set aside money and purchased the land to the north and east of the current location in anticipation of the eventual opportunity to build.

“The third time’s the charm,” Ingrarm said. “We hope this new chapter will enhance our worship and community for years to come.”

The project will cost about $700,000 and was made possible when the First Southern Bank agreed to loan about $350,000 for the purchase of the building materials along with contributions from companies in the area, he said.

E.T. Simonds Construction Company, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 160 and 551 and Fager-McGee Commercial Construction can be seen on site throughout the construction of the new facility.

Ingram Jr. said these companies show great support and unity by donating labor whether through volunteerism or below cost.

Kendall Woods, trustee board and church member of Carbondale, said the church finally obtained the resources to approach the bank for a loan, contacted the Builders of Christ who came to interview them and then decided it was a worthy project.

“We knew we could do it and now that it’s under construction, it’s a blessing,” Woods said. “It’s something that we’ve been working toward even though we didn’t know how we were going to do it. Then we found Builders for Christ.”

According to the Builders for Christ website, the host church is responsible for obtaining and paying for the land, site work, slab work, building materials, equipment, building design, project development cost and permitting.

The Builders for Christ leadership team organizes and plans the mission trip for the construction project at the host church and each construction project is comprised of roles such as a project team leader, construction leader, and team leaders, said Bobby Lunceford, team coordinater with the Builders for Christ.

Lunceford said they organize about 400 group members into four teams that work in waves on the project until its completion.

He said their mission statement is “building the body of Christ through volunteer church construction.”

“We get volunteers, we come, and we help build a church,” Lunceford said.

Deborah Woods, of Carbondale, has been a member of the Olivet Freewill Baptist Church since she was a girl and said it’s beautiful to see people that have the same views and attitudes come together.

She said the presence of volunteers, including groups from surrounding churches, is a testament to the unity of Christians because they have no commitment other than a personal desire.

“Anytime you get that commitment, you know where it comes from,” Deborah Woods said. “It’s based on love.”

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About Tiffany Blanchette

Senior at SIUC majoring in photojournalism and zoology. Can be easily reached at or 618-536-3311 ext. 254.

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