STANFIELD - Rising majestically 57 feet into the air, a recently erected steeple and cross is a beacon for Stanfield Baptist Church.

Parishioner Connie Pennington donated nearly 70 percent of the cost for the edifice in memory of her mother, Gladys Lasher. John Finley and Bill Wright, also church members, drove to Roanoke, Ala., to bring the spire home.

"It's lit up at night and just looks nice," Rev. John Hurty said.

The church is nearing completion of its $350,000 expansion project. An open house is planned from 2-4 p.m. July 14 at the church at 310 E. Wheeler St. It will then be dedicated at 10 a.m. July 15.

The steeple stands above the newly constructed sanctuary of the church that was originally founded in the late 1960s in the basement of the Rev. Harold McArthur's home. The church was loacted at the Stanfield Grange for a time before its moved to its present location in the early 1970s. An addition was completed five years ago.

Hurty has been pastor for 10 years and has seen growth in the church affiliated with CB Northwest.

"We've had this as a goal for a number of years and we just slowly raised funds for it," Hurty said. More changes are planned at the church. The old sanctuary will be converted into a multi-purpose area and classrooms.

"I see this as a place to give us the potential to grow," Hurty said. "It allows us to reconfigure space for the classrooms and no longer use the sanctuary for multipurpose."

AWANA, a mid-week program for children through sixth grade will be able to stretch out and have plenty of space for its programs. Rebecca Billings, a commander with the youth program is excited about the possibilities.

"It will be a lot of help with our AWANA program with more room for our games and other activities," she said.

With an average attendance of 30-40 children, the program hasn't had adequate space for games. The program, which includes learning Bible verses, playing games and having chapel time, runs from 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesdays from September through April. It often attracts children from throughout the community.

Upon completion, the 43,000 square-foot sanctuary project will have a seating capacity of 360, doubling the area for parishioners to worship.

"We really want to create space that would allow a person to have a threshold experience," Hurty said. "We wanted it to be a sanctuary. We want it to be thought of as a holy place."

Many of the church's parishioners have had a hand in the construction process, including Roger Smith, who made the pine cross that will grace the sanctuary and Claire Bettencourt, who quilted two majestic banners to hang on either side of the cross.

Additionally Gary Stolz, a recently retired electrician, did the electrical work, Clay Finley did landscaping and irrigation work and Mark Penny and Van Gorder built restrooms and designed the baptistery.

Hurty was extremely pleased with Kevin Van Riper of Van Riper Construction.

"I think him and his men have done an outstanding job," Hurty said. "He could have had a greater contractor's fee. I think because it was a church, he was very generous with us."

Hurty and others in the congregation have anticipated the expansion for a number of years.

"It's something that's been a desire and dream for myself and others in the church," Hurty said. "It's an exciting time for the Stanfield Baptist Church."

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