Columbia County soon may have its first Catholic Church if negotiations over a site on Columbia Road are successful.
Meanwhile, two other churches in Columbia County are expanding to provide for growing memberships, and one is closing.
The Catholic Diocese of Savannah is negotiating to buy 44.47 acres at 4921 Columbia Road, which was the site of Augusta Golf Centers Inc.
If the negotiations are successful, St. Teresa of Avila parish, now at 117 Pleasant Home Road in Augusta, will move to the site, a statement from the diocese said.
The church made an offer on the parcel in February, and the closing could take place April 30, the statement said.
"Beside the desire to reach out to Columbia County residents pastorally, the current St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church has become too small to serve the existing parish, which has grown exponentially in recent years to the point that there are more than 1,200 families in the parish," the statement said.
COLUMBIA COUNTY Christian Church broke ground recently for a new 5,000-square-foot sanctuary, which is being paid for by donations from its 120 members.
The new sanctuary will be at the church's current home, 4004 Prescott Drive in Martinez.
Senior Minister Mike Klaus said the church was established on the site in 1999 in what had been a day care center. Klaus estimated the existing buildings date back to the mid-1970s.
He said the new sanctuary was needed because of the growth of the church and the church's school, Columbia County Christian Academy.
"We just ran out of room," Klaus said.
The church has grown to 120 members, and the school is adding fifth and sixth grades next year, he said. It currently has nursery through fourth grade. The old sanctuary will be used to house classrooms, he said.
When the decision was made to build a new sanctuary, the church members donated $46,000 in the first week of the fund-raising campaign, Klaus said.
"I feel motivated to say thank you to the congregation," he said.
He said he estimates that another $46,000 will be needed to complete the work, and he believes the congregation will donate that amount, also.
The church's building committee is serving as the general contractor for the work, which began this week.
The groundbreaking ceremony was unique, also, because all 120 members of the congregation were asked to bring shovels to take part.
"Having everyone involved in the groundbreaking is unique from what I've seen in the past. ... It's really a team effort," Klaus said.
The youngest members had plastic toy shovels, and one of the adult members operated a backhoe during the ceremony.
ALSO RECENTLY, the congregation of West Augusta Baptist Church broke ground for a new church at Industrial Park Drive and Southern Pines Drive in Columbia. The congregation will change the name of its church to Jones Creek Baptist Church, Associate Pastor Donnie Crosswhite said.
The congregation has been meeting at Warren Road Elementary School since it sold its former building on Davis Road.
Crosswhite said the new sanctuary will seat between 350 and 375 people. The facility also will include classrooms and a fellowship hall. The cost for the land, construction and furnishings is expected to be between $1.4 million and $1.5 million, he said.
He said the congregation probably will add to the physical plant in the future.
"It's something we've wanted to do for a long time. When they built the original church on Davis Road is was supposed to be a temporary thing because the building actually resembled an office building rather than a church," Crosswhite said.
"What we wanted to do was be able to sell the property and get enough money out of it to put a building up that we could meet in debt free, and it just so happens that it finally came to fruition," he said.
He said the congregation hopes to be in the new building late this year or early next year.
Crosswhite's father, Dr. Don Crosswhite, is the pastor. The groundbreaking also celebrated the 10th anniversary of Dr. Crosswhite's tenure at the church, his son said.
AS THOSE TWO CHURCHES get their start, another is seeing its doors close. Belair Presbyterian held its last service on Easter Sunday, causing a small ripple effect in the Interfaith Hospitality Network.
Belair Presbyterian was one of the original members of the network that houses homeless families in Augusta-area churches. Network founder Dr. Gary Billingsley said the process of replacing the church already has begun.
He said Belair Presbyterian held a special place in the network because of the congregation's willingness to do everything it could for the families housed. The churches in the network takes turns housing the families.
Billingsley said every member of the congregation would show up at dinnertime and eat with the families.
"If you ask our families where they liked staying the most, they'd probably say Presbyterian," he said. "When some of the bigger churches wouldn't help, Belair just came in and did what they could."
Staff Writer Louie Villalobos contributed to this article.
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