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131-year-old church runs out of room

September 07, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - People have worshipped at the Dudley Baptist Church on Raleigh Street for 131 years, and now the growing congregation has taken the first step toward building a bigger church.

Economic growth in the region and a new pastor at the church have led to an explosive boom in attendance at Sunday worship services at Dudley, church Administrator Charlotte Norris said.

Over the past eight years attendance at the church has risen from 20 people each week to more than 350, Norris said.

A shrinking number of open seats in the church and a severe shortage of available parking have led the church to purchase 33 acres for a new building, Norris said.

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The $725,000 parcel is at W.Va. 9 and U.S. 11 near the Old Courthouse Square shopping center in Martinsburg.

The church doubled the size of the sanctuary in the Raleigh Street building in 1994 and purchased two adjacent properties for more expansion, but the lack of parking spaces forced Dudley to look at building a new church, the Rev. Patrick Walker said.

"We purchased a piece of land where parking will never again be an issue," Walker said.

The church draws people from Berkeley and Jefferson counties, as well as worshippers from Hagerstown and Winchester, Va., Walker said.

"I can't imagine that we'll see a slowdown in the number of new people anytime soon," Walker said.

Walker said the new building will accommodate about 1,000 people.

Plans for the new building include an expanded worship room, a recreational area and a community outreach center where meals, clothing and counseling would be provided, Walker said.

Other proposals include educational space for child-care and after-school programs and an area for nutrition and health-care programs, Walker said.

The Raleigh Street building will be kept by the church and could be used for some type of ministry work, Walker said.

A start date has not been set for the project. The church first wants to pay off the $725,000 it owes on the new land purchase and a $200,000 mortgage it owes on the Raleigh Street church, Walker said.

The church plans to have the $200,000 mortgage debt paid by next Easter, Norris said.

Until then, Walker said the church will continue to squeeze in cars and make do with the current church building.

"This is the first step," he said.

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