Metropolitan Baptist Church lays cornerstone, raises cross at new location
Leaders hope members follow church to Largo
Christopher Anderson/The Gazette
Metropolitan Baptist Church was founded in 1864 as Fourth Baptist Church during the Civil War when Abraham Lincoln was the president of the United States. Needless to say, the congregation of the Washington, D.C., church has grown during the past 144 years – and is moving to Largo.
The church, which has about 6,000 members and 96 clergy, has outgrown its current location and is moving to a new location, 100 Capitol Court.
On Saturday, church members placed the new Metropolitan Baptist Church cornerstone in an exterior wall and raised the cross on the steeple. The worship service took place in the church's narthex, which is the first time the congregation was allowed into the building.
More than 500 church members attended, said Michele Penick, a church volunteer and parishioner since 1982.
"It was extraordinary; it was monumental because the experience we had will live on in everyone's memory," she said.
The new church was scheduled to open in late November, but because of construction delays is now planned to open April 12, which is Easter Sunday. The church could not expand at its current location because of a lack of available land.
"Because of our growth, we can't satisfy as many people as we'd like, and parking is an issue," said senior minister the Rev. H. Beecher Hicks, Jr. "The new sanctuary will seat 3,200 people with over 1,000 parking spaces. When construction is complete, we'll have 150,000 square feet to do our ministry."
Deacon Virgie Jones, 79, is one of 55 Metropolitan Baptist Church deacons and has been a parishioner since 1941.
"You feel like you do if you were moving from a house that you were raised in; it holds fond memories for me," Jones said. "But, you're excited because you're going to a new church. I pray that we'll be more effective in our new location."
Missy Daniel, director of administrative operations for the church, is also looking forward to the church's move.
"We're just excited about the cornerstone and cross-raising," she said. "I think it'll hit people that this is our new church."
Church leaders first began discussing a move in 2000, and that year the church began fundraising for its new site. Hicks did not disclose specific information about the new church's funding but said funding has come from fundraising, donations and generosity from parishioners and others.
"It will take time, but the Lord has just been so good to us; it's as if he's said, Get up from here and go to where I'm sending you,'" Jones said.
Jones said she has noticed a drop in attendance and in the number of congregants. "Those people have moved since then out near Maryland and are waiting for us to get there," she said.
Hicks said he hopes parishioners will follow the church to its new location.
"We're going to do everything we can to make sure we take everyone with us and that the family remains intact," Hicks said.
E-mail Liz Skalski at firstname.lastname@example.org.