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Abilene enjoys expansive new addition in midst of economic recession

 

Pastor Bill Harrell stands in front of the spiral staircase in the beautiful new atrium of Abilene Baptist church in Martinez, a suburb of Augusta.

MARTINEZ — Abilene Baptist Church recently opened its newest facility with 55,000 square feet of floor space at a cost of $6.7 million. Pastor Bill Harrell contends that the facilities at Abilene are complete and stated, “It has been my goal to prepare these people for the next 30 years and I think we have done that.”

Harrell continued, “No one lasts forever and I am no exception. The next pastor will never have to lay a brick. It is all in place and it is first class. The only thing I would like to do at this point is to buy some additional land around us, which might come open to provide more parking space. Our parking is sufficient at this time, but it would be good to have some more in preparation for future growth.”

The new building is called The Children’s Ministry Center and is primarily dedicated to serve the children of Abilene. It is a state-of-the-art center for children with the latest in security systems, which protect children when they are placed in the Center. It will also house the weekday preschool program which is being reinstated this year, beginning Sept. 7.

The new addition, designed to accommodate 700 more people for Sunday School, includes not only space for the children’s ministry, but adult classrooms and an area for fellowship called The Meeting Place, which includes the Abilene Coffee Shop. The coffee shop is also being called the Holy Ground Coffee Shop (note the play on words).

The facility also includes a beautiful balcony, which will be conducive for social events and weddings. There is also an area designed for Sunday School classes to have outdoor sessions when the weather is favorable. Small trees and ornamental plants will be planted on the balcony, which will provide a “garden” effect.

The church’s executive offices, including “The Oval Office,” are on the second floor of the building. The pastor’s study has been dubbed “The Oval Office” because it has a startling resemblance to another “Oval Office” located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. Interestingly, Harrell can look out his window and see Washington Road, where the church is located. Harrell ordered the desk he wanted for his study not realizing at the time that it was called “The Presidential Desk.”

 

‘Oval Office’ and ‘Presidential Desk’

For years his friends have affectionately known Harrell as “The Little General.” The addition of “The Oval Office” overlooking Washington Road and “The Presidential Desk” would lead one to think that perhaps the church has given their pastor a promotion.

The truth is that Harrell has provided over 30 years of consistent, faithful leadership to the people of one of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s oldest churches. Abilene was founded in 1774 and has been a thriving, dynamic church during the course of Harrell’s pastorate.

Mike Eidem, an architect from Kingman, Kan., designed Abilene’s new facilities. Harrell explained, “Mike Eidem is a deep Christian man who is exceptionally easy to work with. He understands how a church uses space better than anyone I know and he will design exactly what the client describes to him while adding his own expertise. He is the man who built First Baptist Jacksonville, Fla., and who finished Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis.”

Abilene launched an aggressive building program in the midst of an economic recession, but Harrell insists that the church has a good debt structure and that there will be no problem paying off the loan.

Harrell advised, “With the economy the way it is, I would encourage any pastor to make sure that he has the resources to deal with the debt of building such a project. Prior to doing anything I had a church meeting at which time I laid everything out and got a full commitment from the people to go into this project.

“They have lived up to that commitment,” Harrell contends, “and we are well ahead of the financial responsibilities concerning this project and our general church budget as well. God has blessed us with dedicated people who are honoring all that we have undertaken to do.”

 

The corridor of Abilene’s Children’s Ministry Center is lined with handpainted murals that tell the story of redemption.

Bill Harrell, Abilene’s senior pastor, has a study that looks remarkably like the oval office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.