2016-11-05 / Front Page

Spreading the Word

Calvary Baptist Church to expand in Sanford neighborhood
Senior Staff Writer

SANFORD — Make no mistake, when Pastor Todd Bell of Calvary Baptist Church is fired up about something, he tends to move at full speed.

So it should come as no surprise that a mere two weeks after formally closing on the purchase of the former Knights of Columbus banquet hall and meeting room, just down the hill from the church on High Street, he is looking for the building to be ready by Nov. 12.

The church and its Sanford Christian Academy, are not moving from their locations at 62 and 68 High St. Instead, the new acquisition will be called the Calvary Baptist Church Family Life Center.

“It will be a place where faith, family and friendships are forged,” said Bell from his office at Sanford Christian Academy on Wednesday.

The new space will provide a needed gymnasium for the 60 students who attend Sanford Christian Academy, but that will not be its only function.

The church congregation, which approaches 200, plans a community center, where folks can come for sports and events organized by the congregation, including talks on character development — qualities like honesty, integrity, being faithful, said Bell, that enhance society.

The congregation has been meeting, seeking guidance about the path forward for about a year. They had contemplated the space a few years before, but at that time, it was cost prohibitive.

While their roots are south of the Mason-Dixon Line, Bell and his wife, Amy, and their four children arrived in Sanford in 2003. They came from East Millinocket, where they had started Tri Town Baptist Church, one of a number of independent fundamental Baptist churches they have — in church parlance “planted” — over time. 

In Sanford, they began Calvary Baptist Church and the congregation purchased the High Street storefront, which they turned into the church building in 2006. Four years later, they celebrated the opening of Sanford Christian Academy in the church building, and then purchased and renovated another vacant storefront and moved the school there.

Along the way, Calvary Baptist Church widened its scope, establishing churches on Islesboro, and in Jackman, Fort Kent and New Vineyard, aided by Bell’s "Wings with the Word" aviation ministry.

Maura Herlihy, Sanford’s deputy mayor, and the owner with her family, of Eastside Convenience on High Street, said the investments by Calvary Baptist Church are good for the neighborhood.

"Its a nice presence in the neighborhood," said Herlihy. "I think its good for everybody."

When Sanford’s textile mills were operating full tilt about 60 years ago, the section of High Street from Washington to Grammer streets and the small streets running perpendicular to it was a flourishing neighborhood, with well-kept properties and a number of stores. Then, the mills closed, and over time, the neighborhood changed. The storefronts closed, and some parts of the street began to deteriorate.

Herlihy, a member of the city council’s zoning subcommittee, said Bell first approached the committee about a different property. Soon thereafter, he came to talk about the former Knights of Columbus building and banquet hall, she said, and the committee was "thrilled."

"Their properties are always renovated beautifully," said Herlihy. "I really feel they’re adding to and contributing to the health of the community."

Bell, too, is looking forward to the new space, and to further the ministry.

"Our goal is to be the part of the solution," he said.

 — Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or twells@journaltribune.com.

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