Groton Bible Chapel celebrates grand opening of new worship center

Groton — Groton Bible Chapel Lead Pastor Gary Campbell Jr. said he was pleasantly surprised that the church’s new worship center felt like home from its first service.

That's partly because the new building is aesthetically designed as a warm, comfortable and inviting space, he said. But he also realized that it's because of the people.

"It really has much more to do with the people than the space," Campbell said in a recent interview.

Groton Bible Chapel, a nondenominational church on Toll Gate Road, held a grand opening ceremony last Friday night to officially mark the completion of a project to construct the new worship center. 

The new building includes a commons area, welcome center, a wing for babies and toddlers, and a new sanctuary that expands capacity from 310 to 580 seats to accommodate the church's growth.

With the expanded seating, the church has been able to reduce its Sunday services from three to two. Campbell said it's been fun for churchgoers to see people they know but didn't realize attended the same church. 

More people, he said, are socializing before and after services and connecting with and encouraging each other, and children are playing in a new playground while their parents visit.

About 300 people, from contractors and local pastors to church and community members, attended the grand opening Friday in the new sanctuary that featured prayer, songs, interviews, a devotional message by Construction Manager Rick Utenis and a time lapse video of the construction project. People involved in the project were thanked and applauded.

The facility was built 80 percent by volunteers, with the other 20 percent built by contractors, Campbell said. The first services in the new sanctuary were held on Nov. 24.

About 900 volunteers, through Builders from Christ, took vacation time and paid their way to travel to Groton to work, along with volunteers from the church, on the construction project from mid-May to late August.

Builders for Christ has helped build 77 churches in the last 39 years, from Denver to New Orleans to eastern Virginia to central Maine and northern Wisconsin, said Lawrence Corley, project director for Builders for Christ. Volunteers came to the Groton site from 62 churches located in 17 states as far as California, Florida, Wisconsin and Maine to complete about 400 tasks.

Prior to the project, a team of volunteers from Groton Bible Chapel had helped construct an expansion project at Jacob's Well Church in Eau Claire, Wis., through Builders for Christ.

During the grand opening on Friday, Campbell interviewed several people connected with the project. 

One of those, project architect Andrew Oxley called it a "huge blessing" to get to know the Groton Bible Chapel community, the staff and the vision of the church.

Corley said the construction of the physical building is not the biggest part of what he appreciates most about these projects.

"I appreciate what the host church does to share Christ with their neighborhood because that's really what this is about," he said.

Another of those interviewed, Jon Lotring, said he was driving down the road one day in the summer when he saw the construction project and large tents.

"It just felt like there was a lot of life here, and it just kind of drew me in," he said after the ceremony.

Lotring stopped by the site, which ultimately led him to Campbell. Lotring said Campbell helped him reconnect with his Bible study group. Lotring said he then started going to Sunday service at Groton Bible Chapel and connected with people at the church. He now plans to be baptized there in the spring.

Campbell said that Groton Bible Chapel has a base of very skilled, capable, talented and hard-working people but they realized they would still need help with the project.

"It was humbling for this church in the most positive of ways to receive help from 60-plus churches from all over the United States, all different skill levels, and to get to say thank you and recognize that we couldn't have done this without them," Campbell said.

Utenis, the construction manager, said building the church was an amazingly positive experience and the group of people connected through the same faith were like "one big family."

He added everyone connected with the project brought a positive attitude and was willing to work on construction of the new worship center, where he said everyone is welcome.  

Lynn Wallace of Westbrook, who did some site clean-up during the construction project, said people around town were excited to hear updates on the project and the church community was excited to be involved in the project, whether by raising money or helping with clean-up. Every Sunday, churchgoers discussed the progress and what was coming ahead in the next week, and children were excited to run around and see what was new with the project.

With the new center, she said people are happy they get to see more people who previously had gone to services at different times. New families are also coming in and are grateful to drop their kids off in the nursery wing across the hall from the sanctuary. 

"It’s amazing just to think about all the people that came all summer from all over the country, and they helped us build this with their love and their hearts," Wallace said. "It’s amazing that it was mostly volunteers, just people like me."

k.drelich@theday.com

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