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“As we approach the new beginning, let us gear up for what God is about to do. Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorifie,” says the Lord, Haggai 1-8.

Traditional Palm Sunday celebration occurs each year the week before Easter as commemoration of Jesus’ entrée into Jerusalem.

The Bible says that he entered on a donkey to a cheering crowd who laid out Palms and their coats for him to ride on. Palm Sunday services at the Central Baptist Church in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, this year, April 17, had an added dimension to the morning’s worship.

(Photos by J.L. Martello)

However, the morning’s spiritual focus became all about sharing the vision for the future of Central Baptist Church. And Palm Sunday was selected as the day to unveil the plans to move forward with a three-year $2 million Capital Stewardship Campaign as the second phase of its vision to complete external and internal renovation of the church—construction of a striking new edifice on the site where the current building has been sitting for 70 years.

The church conducted a Prayer Walk, commencing from Herron Avenue proceeding down Centre and on Kirkpatrick to Wylie and then through the Church doors. The walk is an eight year tradition which, according to Deborah Pollard-Starling, head of the church drama ministry, “Is intended to replicate the time, according to the New Testament, when Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane following the Last Supper with the twelve Disciples that led to his crucifixion.”

Pastor Victor J. Grigsby opened the discussion outlining some of the processes they went through, starting 10 months ago, to put together an outstanding team of professionals to begin the design stage of the new building.

Central is 120 years old, first organized in 1891 with approximately 150 members; and has been at its current site 60 of these years and now boasts a membership of approximately 1500 members. Pastor Grigsby, who succeeded Rev. Isaac Green 14 years ago, says, with this history, along with the current winds of revitalization beginning to blow through the Hill.

“We the people of God need to take on a leadership role, were we step out as willing executors to do the work that our faith mandates to proceed with this project,” Rev. Grigsby said. “As such we believe we should have a presence in our community—presenting the church as more than just a building—but as a catalyst for change.”

“As leaders, it is important that we are trend-setters; this means beyond the spiritual climate; but holistically including every aspect in responding to the basic needs of people. While our priority is winning souls for Christ, we recognize that we can’t get peoples attention if they are out of work, if their children are hungry, the utilities are at risk, or if they do not have access to safe affordable housing. It is this mentality that was part of the drive behind the completion of the first development phase, the $811,000 Victory Center Project at 2301 Centre Ave.; which was actually to come after the work on the new building. Through this initial endeavor we wanted to create the impetus for Economic Development and Empowerment for our community.”

Upon his arrival at Central in 1996, Rev. Grigsby learned of the problem with the back wall falling in a little more with each passing year. It became apparent there needed to be a decision made about a new building. Rev. Grigsby said. “We have not embarked on this mission from a posture of arrogance, but definitely out of necessity. The troubles with the wall are not getting better; either we do this, or we don’t have a church.”

The deliberation led to the appointment of a Strategic Planning Committee to search for an architectural firm to design the new building. After an intensified search around the country, Rev. Victor Grigsby’s brother, Rev. Canard Grigsby Jr. identified the husband and wife minority architectural firm of Rios and Williams. Design team members are Lizette Rios-Williams; Keith Williams; Gil Kaufman, president and CEO of Atlantic Engineering Services of Pittsburgh; and Edward E. Dumont, architect and design illustrator.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back and 6-time All Pro, and owner of Mel Blount Youth Home of Pennsylvania, Mel Blount and his wife, TiAnda, charged the congregation to embrace this project fully, and kicked it off by presenting to the church a $10,000 check in an effort to put an “action” to their challenge to others.

Reverend Grigsby went on to give his morning message, in which he continued to charge the congregation and other church officials surrounding this mission. In his message he admonished the audience that God has never given a vision to anyone without providing them the skills, the tools and strength to get it done. The element of the celebration of Palm Sunday was in no way diminished by the presentation of the plan and the appeal for the capital campaign, if anything the spirit of the worship, and the praise to God was enhanced by incorporating the information about the long range plans for the church. The service epitomized the faith of this body of Christ, and the scripture referenced in the program booklet outlining the plan.

The members of the Strategic Planning Team are: Min. Eloise Betts, Capital Campaign coordinator; Billie McMeans, Strategic Planning secretary; Rev. Canard S. Grigsby Jr., architectural liaison; Deacon Earnest Darby, Strategic Planning Team Budget and Finance Committee chairman; Deacon Terry Roberts, Strategic Planning Team, Member Engagement Committee chairman; Ron Brown, communications chairman; Mel Blount, Strategic Planning Team External Relations Committee; and Deacon Johnny Delaney, Strategic Planning Events Planning Committee chairman.

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