"ARISE!" Founded in the 1840s, Livingston's Own Central Baptist Transpires Into a Mega Church Right Here In Polk County.
Joel Salazar has been Minister of Music for 18 years at Central.
At 9:30 am on March 1, 2009, Central Baptist Church of Livingston, Texas turned the page to a new beginning as the doors opened on a nearly $7,000,000 Worship Center located in the heart of downtown Livingston. After nearly 3 years of construction, often with delays due to bad weather, members of this church with a passion for "Making God Known" rejoiced in their new sanctuary that has all the amenities necessary to accommodate the 21st century and the accompanying technology. Led by a visionary young pastor, Barry Jeffries and his family hails from Kentucky. Jeffries took the reins as pastor of Central in 2004 and has led his church through the complex waters of constructing a new sanctuary. "It is my prayer that our new Worship Center can serve our congregation and community as well as our old Worship Center has". The old Worship Center was built in 1926 and has served Central and the community for the past 83 years.
One of the eldest members of the church, Earnest Reuter was a member when the old Worship Center was under construction. Many other members who are now senior citizens have been at Central since their childhood years. "This means everything to me" says Frank Murphy whose been a member since 1946, "This is a day we rejoice in a new house for the Lord". Murphy is a deacon who is passionate about his love for Jesus and for this Church, "This is one of the most wonderful feelings that you can have" he says, "It's just great to see what the Lord has done through his people". Murphy is radiates an eagerness to spread the good news "I would want anybody and everybody to come, I'll welcome them when they get here".
"It's a wonderful day that we've all looked forward to with great anticipation and a lot of work" says Bill Galloway. Galloway has been a member for 50 years and serves on the church staff and is responsible for building maintenance. "We're just real excited" he says. Indeed, as members streamed through the doors the sense of anticipation in the air was thick. On a brisk, chilly day, warmth and smiles emitted from Central's members. Handshakes, hugs and pleasantries abound in this church of love.
Youth Minister Steve Horn has a passion for leading youth to Christ.
The enormous structure easily accommodates over a thousand occupants. The foyer of the main entrance reveals large staircases on each side, both leading to a balcony with a furniture finish railing. With state of the art audio and visual equipment, the acoustics in the sanctuary carry sound to near perfection and features audio array speaker systems. The back wall of the sanctuary displays two large video screens used for song lyrics and video presentations. Upon entering the sanctuary, one is struck by its size which includes a massive balcony. Corridors on both floors encircle the sanctuary with multiple sanctuary entries on each level. The baptistry is located high above the expansive choir loft. High above everything are cat walks which are concealed from the audience but visible to stage occupants. Other features include a huge bridal room completely furnished, a courtesy room with a large plate glass window that allows full view of the stage, elevators, a connecting tunnel that leads from the Wellmaker Education Center directly to a main corridor in the sanctuary, each orchestra member utilizes fully sound adjustable monitor headsets, sunday school class rooms with huge window views are located on both levels of the east end of the building.
On this morning, Pastor Jeffries was keyed up, as people entered the foyer, there was Brother Barry, "Good morning!", eager to greet all who entered. "Central is a country church in the middle of town. The members of Central love one another and most of all we love the Lord Jesus Christ. The desire of Central is to Make God Known to Livingston, Polk County, and the world". As the service opened, Pastor Jeffries came out and sang to the congregation. The song was entitled "A New Halelujah". The congregation rose to their feet and joined in unison "Arise! Let the church Arise!". Pastor Jeffries stated to PolkCountyToday.com; "I am honored and humbled to have the privilege to pastor this congregation. My wife and I are extremely thankful that God has called us to be a part of this community. We have experienced great blessings from God".
Pastor Jeffries is part of a team of church elders including Joel Salazar. Salazar is the senior most minister of Central being the music minister for the past 18 years. Randall Whitt is Associate Pastor of Spiritual Development and has been at Central for around 15 years and is the former Youth Director. Steve Horn is the Youth Minister and joined Central in 2006 and has a passion for leading youth which includes mission trips that are occasionally outside the United States. Sharon Irwin joined Central in 2008 and is the Children's Minister.
Frank Murphy (left) has been a Central member for 63 years.
Members Nola Reneau (right) and Zuni Openshaw chat in the foyer of the new sanctuary.
Pastor Barry Jeffries (left) welcomes members on opening day of the new sanctuary.
Built in 1926, the old Sanctuary is dwarfed by the new Worship Center.
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