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Monday, June 9, 2014

Dedication ceremony is held for church that moved to new site

HUDSON – When pastor Keith Phemister asked members of his church to testify on Sunday morning, Arthur Ouellette was among the first to lift his hand toward the sky.

The church has come a long way since October, when Phemister and his flock got their first glimpse of the medical office building on Derry Road that would become their new spiritual home. ...

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HUDSON – When pastor Keith Phemister asked members of his church to testify on Sunday morning, Arthur Ouellette was among the first to lift his hand toward the sky.

The church has come a long way since October, when Phemister and his flock got their first glimpse of the medical office building on Derry Road that would become their new spiritual home.

During the last seven months, church members pitched in to renovate the space, tearing down walls, hanging decorations and creating a new place of worship for roughly 190 congregants who previously gathered each Sunday at a mill building in Nashua.

After watching his fellow church members invest their time and effort in the building, Ouellette, of Hooksett, said he prays it will be a vessel to help others in the community be saved by the church’s message.

“This is the day of days to be reckoned and remembered,” he said.

Members of the former Faith Baptist Church in Nashua gathered Sunday for a dedication ceremony for their new church building in Hudson. As part of the move, the church also adopted a new name – Lighthouse Baptist Church – reflecting its transition to a new community.

With the sun shining overhead, church members gathered outside the front entrance at 10:30 a.m. and gave thanks for their successful relocation across the border.

Ouellete and longtime church member Edward Dean began the ceremony with their personal reflections. Church members then bowed their heads as Mike Adams, who leads youth services, offered a dedication prayer.

Adams asked for the new building to function as a spiritual lighthouse – a place where weary souls can find refuge, changing lives and thereby changing the community.

Phemister was joined in cutting the blue ribbon encircling the front door by pastor Jose Castro, who leads the Spanish-language ministry, and Donna Upson, of Lowell Five bank, who helped the church navigate the process of securing a loan to buy the building.

“Officially, we are now opening Lighthouse Baptist Church,” Phemister said, throwing his hands into the air as church members cheered and clapped.

It was a moment that has been a long time coming for the church, which has been searching for a new space since members learned in 2011 that the church would be dislocated by construction of the Broad Street Parkway in Nashua.

Faith Baptist Church was founded nearly 21 years ago by a pastor in Tyngsborough, Mass..

The congregation moved to Nashua about 15 years ago, and was previously located inside a roughly 20,000-square-foot portion of the mill building at 3 Pine St. Extension.

The building was formerly the Nashua Manufacturing Co. Railroad Depot, built in 1848. A portion of the building was acquired to make room for the southern section of the parkway, which will connect Broad Street to Nashua’s downtown.

Church members searched for more than one year to find a space in Nashua that was affordable and big enough for the congregation.

While their options were limited in the Gate City, assistance from Lowell Five and from the state of New Hampshire allowed them to purchase the building at 321 Derry Road in Hudson.

Parishioners chipped in money and volunteered to help renovate the space, gutting the interior to create Sunday school classrooms, office space and a main hall, complete with a piano and space for a choir.

Early estimates put the cost of the project at $300,000 or more, Phemister said, but the church managed to get the work done for roughly $60,000 thanks to the efforts of his parishioners.

John Sutherby, a member of the congregation for about five years, said Sunday’s dedication marked a joyous occasion for the church. Although his home in Nashua was only about a five-minute trip from the church’s previous location, Sutherby said his connection with fellow church members makes the longer drive well worth the trip.

“The people in general are fantastic, so that’s what keeps you coming – the friendliness and the fellowship and all,” he said.

Sutherby said he and other church members visited homes throughout Hudson in the last week to spread the message that a new Baptist community is located nearby.

The church draws participants from around Greater Nashua. About 60 children also take part in a youth program.

Some are bused in from as far away as Lowell, Mass., riding on a pair of buses painted with the church’s name and phone number on the exterior.

The church also is home to a growing Spanish-language ministry, which draws about 40 participants each Sunday.

For Dean, who recalls the church’s early days operating out of the second floor of a strip mall in Tyngsborough, Sunday’s dedication was the fulfillment of a long-held dream to find a permanent home. Dean said that goal was accomplished through the hard work of the entire church.

“What was exciting is people gave,” he said. “They gave not only of themselves, they gave not only of their talents, but they gave away their time and their treasure to put this together. To me, that’s the whole scope of Christianity. Giving of yourself to help one another.”

Jim Haddadin can be reached at 594-6589 or jhaddadin@nashua telegraph.com. Also, follow Haddadin on Twitter (@Telegraph_JimH).