Volunteers pitch in to help build Newport church
'If your hand fits a hammer or if you just want to take a look, come on down,' said Pastor George Berean at the construction site of the church on John Stark Highway (Routes 11 and 103) on Wednesday.
Volunteers from churches across New England are expected to turn out Thursday, Friday and Saturday for the church raising.
'Saturday will be the big push,' Berean said.
Already signed up to volunteer on Saturday are members of the Hillsborough Baptist Church, the Bow Baptist Church in Vermont, the Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford, Maine, and the Faith Baptist Church in Orono, Maine.
Berean started the church five years ago in the Newport Senior Center. In 2008, church members moved into a former restaurant building on Pine Street that had housed The Pines Restaurant.
'Pine Street in Newport is a very pretty place, but very out of the way,' Berean said.
The church on John Stark Highway, near the city of Claremont, will be more accessible and visible to the community, Berean said.
'We figured people would know more about us and we could serve their needs better,' he explained.
Berean said he is hoping his 30-member congregation will be able to grow to about 130 or 140 members in the larger space.
If the congregation were to grow beyond that, he would consider building an additional church, perhaps in Charlestown, he said.
'If God gives us the growth, praise God. If he doesn't, praise God also,' Berean said.
Berean describes Berean Baptist Church as an independent, fundamentalist Baptist church.
'We preach Jesus Christ, him crucified; preach salvation and how to live a proper Christian walk. And we are a very close-knit, joyful church family,' he said.
While the church is small, it is well-known in the community, Berean said, for its 'free-for-alls' that it holds several times a year.
During the free-for-alls, people are asked to donate clothing and other goods, which the church then offers to the community. Serving the community is a major part of the Christian walk, Berean said.
'Some people have a negative connotation for churches that we only grab money, but that isn't the case,' Berean said.
Volunteers were light on Wednesday, but more are expected Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Berean said.
Bob Riendeau of Milford, Conn., who is affiliated with the Black Rock Congregational Church in Fairfield, Conn., volunteered on Wednesday. He runs his own construction company in Connecticut.
'He has probably saved me about a week's worth of work the day and a half he has been here,' Berean said of Riendeau.
Riendeau, whose nephew John Pratt is a member of Berean Baptist Church, volunteered after reflecting on the Scripture.
'He says, Uncle Bob, can you come up to New Hampshire and give us a hand building our church?' Riendeau said of his nephew. 'My work was slow right now, and there was a Bible Scripture that's something about, You live in your paneled houses and my house is in ruins, and so it was like, OK, that was confirmation that the Lord wanted me to come up here and help.'
Berean said he is hoping to start preaching in the church this November, 'God willing.'
The church is providing lunch and supper to volunteers.
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Meghan Pierce may be reached at email@example.com.