NEW PALESTINE — Evan Eckert remembers hearing years ago about a church being started in New Palestine.
He was attending a larger church in Indianapolis, and the New Palestine Bible Church was a “church plant,” a new church that the larger church was helping to establish.
Eight years ago, a new job in Shelbyville brought him and his wife, Courtney, to Indiana from Ohio. When they settled into a new home, they became members of this New Palestine church.
“We actually prayed for this church before it really started,” Evan Eckert said. “It was great to see what happened and to be a part of it.”
Now the Eckerts can see another new chapter unfold for the congregation. The New Palestine Bible Church will move into a different worship space, after expanding and renovating a building the church owns at 5954 W. County Road 300S. He plans to hold his first service there at 10 a.m. on February 6.
“I can’t wait for everyone to be in one building,” Courtney Eckert said. When a church has people coming and going to two services on Sunday mornings, as has been the case at the church’s current service location at 27 W. Main St. in downtown New Palestine, “You you might not know them too, because you go to different departments,” she said.
“It will bring everyone together.”
The plan is to have Sunday morning service in the new location, a building that has tripled in size thanks to an expansion and renovation carried out in 2021.
The renovated and expanded building includes a new 300-seat auditorium. The old sanctuary has become a narthex with a coffee station. The structure also contains a small scent-free room next to the sanctuary for the sensitive, a northern hallway of meeting rooms and classrooms, and a fenced outdoor play area. Some classrooms have collapsible walls for more flexibility, offering one large room or two or three smaller ones.
Work on the building boils down to final tasks, such as installing sound panels on stage or placing an interior doorknob or signage here or there as the Feb. 6 service approaches.
“People are excited,” senior pastor Brett Crump said, but he said the congregation’s enthusiasm is tempered and not too focused on one building. ” We have summer worship the Lord. The church is us. This” – he stands in the narthex and gestures towards the space around him – “is a tool”.
The building on County Road 300S was once the site of the New Faith Community Church, which dedicated the structure in 2008 and built it with help from the Carpenters for Christ organization. Years later, in 2012, New Faith merged with New Palestine Bible Church. The building later became the home of Water’s Edge Baptist Church, but that church also became part of the New Palestine Bible Church, joining it in 2015.
For the past few years, the 300S building has been a ministry center for the New Palestine Bible Church, used during Vacation Bible School, for example. But the end goal was to expand the building and move the congregation there.
This goal was bolstered by a $500,000 grant from the John C. Lasko Foundation Trust and a large bequest from a church member.
It moved forward again in late May 2021 — pushed back from 2020 due to COVID-19 — when the Mississippi Nail Benders arrived. They arrived at the 300S site carrying tools, a stove, and washer, dryer, and shower trailers. The ministry helps churches build their buildings. He organized five weeks of free work in New Palestine by traders and religious youth groups from across the country, each volunteering for a week at the site.
Volunteers framed the building, hung drywall and more; buildings are usually 70% complete when the nail benders leave. Crump estimates the Nail Benders saved the church $350,000 to $450,000 in labor.
Volunteering will take the church on the home stretch until the building opens as well, when the boys of the church-sponsored Trail Life troop will lock-in the Friday before opening. Part of their time staying overnight will include some final touch-up tasks.
The 2,200 square foot building on Main Street is charming and peaceful, Courtney Eckert said. Still, it was in a tight space, the Eckerts said, with no room for expansion and the need to rely on the kindness of school officials to park at nearby New Palestine High School.
“I’m really going to miss it, but it’s not about the building,” she said.
Evan Eckert is looking forward to his Sunday School class in grades four through six having more space to spread out in the new location and accommodate more children.
“It’s going to allow us to better serve the community,” he said, “and that’s what it was built for.”