Cleveland's First Baptist walks to new church - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Cleveland's First Baptist walks to new church

Story by Megan Boatwright

Eyewitness News Reporter

CLEVELAND, TN. (WRCB)-- The city of Cleveland was invaded by a sea of red Sunday.

Members of the First Baptist Church marched to the site where for the last four years they have been building a new state of the art facility .

The march is part of church tradition. Every time they've outgrown a facility they've opened the new one with a march, but four miles is the furthest this church has ever had to walk.

It's organized chaos as the 1,500 church members who signed up to walk take their place.

Right before the march begin the pastor asks his church to look at the building they're leaving behind and think about what God has done.

"Both of my boys were saved and joined the church at First Baptist. That's what I thought of. The leadership that the church has given them through the year," says church member Judy Underwood.

But although leaving this traditional building behind is sad, right now these people have to walk.

"This is a tradition that goes back to the time the church came here over 100 years ago. They walked about three blocks from a location on Inman Street to this location, so we are repeating that symbol," says Co-Paster Jim Gibson.

As so with the sound of the horn, the march begin and excitement is in the air.

"Exciting to see just a sea of red out in front of me and all the shirts and families walking together," says Chuck Evans.

Chuck Evans has attended First Baptist since he was nine-years-old. For the last weeks he has spent a lot of time in the facility, praying for the future of his church family.

"Everybody was excited and horns blow and everybody's ready to go and they're just anticipating coming here to the new facility," says Evans.

The leaders at First Baptist say it's about more than just a crowded sanctuary on Sunday mornings. It's about being able to minister effectively.

"It is all under one roof, where as here, we have buildings across the street, we have this building," says Gibson.

For these people the four mile hike is about the future in their lives and that of their church.

"Just joyful to know that we're going another step in a new direction. God's leading the way and we're just excited about it," says Evans.

First Baptist Cleveland has more than 5,000 members.

Their new sanctuary will seat about 400 more people per service.

The church's old building has been bought by Lee University and will possibly be used as a music and arts facilities.

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