by Kevin G. Gilbert / staff photographer
see the enlargement
MIDDLEWAY, W.Va. - The newly-opened Heritage Free Will Baptist Church could probably hold four times as many as the 100 parishioners who gather each Sunday in the sanctuary.
The Rev. Russell Wright wanted to make sure there was room to grow.
Wright moved to the area in 1992 to build a Free Will Baptist congregation, a denomination that was once part of Jefferson County's history, but had died off more than 100 years ago.
He knew only a couple of families when he started, but went door to door spreading the word.
Since then, Wright's seen the congregation grow from about a dozen members to more than 100.
"Our growth hasn't been rapid, but it's been consistent," he said.
For years, they rented an abandoned church in Leetown, W.Va., but decided to build a new one rather than buy the old one that they began to outgrow, he said.