Having been built in 1908, Petal Harvey Baptist Church on South Main Street in Petal has seen its share of buildings and projects come and go in its 112-year history in the Friendly City.
But perhaps the biggest change to the church began about two years ago, when officials started on a strategic building program of new construction, renovation of existing facilities, and extensive campus projects such as drainage and curb appeal. Most recently, the church added in the back of its campus new education space for children and adults, along with a new worship center that replaced the previous center in the front of the campus.
“That (former) worship center was good; it was built for us in the ‘70s, so we’ve been in it a long time and it’s served us well,” pastor Dustie Dunn said. “But we were at multiple services and growing, so we built the new facility in the back so that we could have a larger worship center. And we were out of rooms and classrooms in our children’s department and our adult department, so we added two new wings onto those.”
To make way for that project, the buildings behind the main worship center were demolished, including a preschool building, a youth building and a children’s building.
That process ended in early March, right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the area.
“As a matter of fact, the week we were supposed to have our first service in that building was the week where everything was shut down for COVID,” Dunn said. “So we still haven’t had our dedication service or anything like that.
“Our hope was to be at one service instead of doing multiple services, and the week we were supposed to have that service was the week where we were not allowed to gather. So we had to shift completely online with a brand-new building.”
Because construction crews were considered essential employees during the shutdown, they were able to continue working throughout the duration of that measure.
Workers turned the church’s existing sanctuary into a new youth facility that contains a high school worship area, a middle school worship area, and classrooms for students throughout the building.
“We felt like we were given a good price by a local contractor – Hanco was our local contractor, out of Hattiesburg – and they’ve done a fantastic job,” Dunn said. “And then the Lord’s people here at the church have provided the funds to pay for it. So we’re pleased all the way around for that.”
Dunn said he, the church staff, and the church’s approximately 2,200 members are thrilled that the project is coming to completion.
“We’re really excited about starting to be able to occupy the buildings,” he said. “It’s one thing to have buildings, but when COVID hit, we had new buildings, but we were not allowed to occupy them. So we’re really excited about a facility, but the idea of being able to get back together with people in those facilities – that’s where our major excitement is. We believe that what we’ve done sets our church up for decades into the future ... to be able to really have an impact on peoples’ lives.”
Dunn said when church officials reviewed some of the older facilities, they realized the church was living on what he called the “generous blessings of previous generations.” To wit, the aforementioned previous sanctuary was built in the 1970s, and the old youth building was constructed in 1948.
“The generations that passed are the ones that handed down our facilities,” Dunn said. “We’re now excited that we’ve got something to pass on for further ministry for our community for the years to come.
“Our project was called ‘Forward,’ and the tagline of it was ‘For Those Yet to Come,’ so really did it with the future in mind, and that’s came back to be a really good blessing.”