First Baptist celebrates move to new location

KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - After a decade of planning, members of First Baptist Church in Kearney are celebrating a new beginning in an old place.

Dozens of church members braved the cold to walk one mile from their old location, 1616 W. 39th, to the new one: The old Kearney High School.

Members symbolically carried a cross on their backs the entire way as Kearney police escorted them to the building.

People then went to the first ever worship service at the new spot.

"I saw the beginning of the church we just left, and now I saw the end. And I walked away from it today," said K'Don Anderson, a 70-year member of First Baptist.

People decided it was time for a change years ago when their congregation had grown out of their space. They are now at about 400 people, and are still growing.

The move is even more special for people like Anderson, as well as Melanie Morrison.

She said she's been attending the church her whole life. Not only did Morrison graduate from the old Kearney High School, but so did her kids, as well as Anderson's son.

"It was emotional. It really was. We had our kids baptized in that church. We've been married in that church. There's just so many things that now, it's a chiropractor's office," Morrison said.

Believe it or not, another member of the church is in a similar boat.

Monte Krueger said he's been attending the church for more than 50 years. He also graduated from the old high school, as did his kids. Krueger said the move from their old building is bittersweet.

"To know that a place that was so dear to myself and my kids is going to continue to be a place that will be near and dear to them. Until they carry me out the door, this will be a part of my life," Krueger said.

While many church members are ready to make some new members, they're also not ready to forget the old ones.

But the pastor said they won't have to.

"We're not forgetting the history of this building," said Sean Dougherty, senior pastor of First Baptist. "You know when people walk through they'll be able to see some elements that they can go, "oh I remember this." It'll be just enough difference for us to call it our own, but still similar enough for people to see some similarities."

The building is still in the process of being remodeled. The main sanctuary is still being constructed in one of the high school's gyms. People with the building committee said they expect it to be completed by summer.

All church services will now be held at the new location, 3610 Sixth Ave., from now on. Services will return to normal times at 8 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Dougherty said he hopes the expansion will create a wave of change within the community.

"I really want to see God change lives in this place. I want to see people in Kearney say hey that First Baptist Church, they really care. They care about us. They know that this place is welcoming," Dougherty said.