Cape's 'good problem' - growing churches

Thursday, March 21, 2002

Cape Girardeau is blessed to have dozens of thriving, growing church congregations. Take a drive on Mount Auburn Road and Lexington Avenue from William Street to Perryville Road. Along the way you'll see several large new church buildings as well as several older ones. Many of them have what might be called a "good problem" of too little room for their expanding memberships. Indeed, leaders of some of the newer churches are already building on or looking at ways to expand.

One of the active churches with growing pains is the First Assembly of God, currently located at 750 N. Mount Auburn Road. It needs a bigger auditorium and more parking space for worshippers. About six months ago, the church announced plans to build a new building along with a recreation complex, an amphitheater and a day-care center on property it owns near Hopper Road and I-55. The church currently operates a day-care center at its Mount Auburn Road location.

A lot of residents in the Hopper Road area expressed their concerns when the church announced its ambitious development. Many of them were concerned about traffic that would be generated by the day-care center and the recreational facilities. They said residential streets weren't built to accommodate that much traffic. The church had plans to funnel access to the development away from residential streets, once the project was completed. And city officials said a new extension of Hopper Road, opened several months ago, was more than adequate to handle the traffic to the proposed church complex.

Now First Assembly of God has announced an interim step. It is purchasing a building on Silver Springs Road that has housed supermarkets, including a Mr. K's Food Center that has been closed for a few years. The building can be converted into an auditorium seating 1,100 worshippers, which is more than double the church's capacity at its current location. And the supermarket parking lot will accommodate 550 vehicles.

The church plans to use the former supermarket location to accomplish two things. First, the building can be converted fairly quickly to ease the church's space shortage. Second, it gives the church some time to plan its future development on its property near Hopper Road.

Church leaders say the congregation would probably stay on Silver Springs Road about five years. Beyond that, there are plans to for First Assembly of God to continue to use the supermarket property for other ministries.

As we said, growing pains at churches can only be considered a "good problem."

First Assembly has demonstrated a sense of cooperation and understanding by making these interim plans. We should all take considerable satisfaction from the fact that we live in a community where religion, church attendance and outreach ministries are so prevalent.

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