North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

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August 13, 2010

More than 5,000 attend 1st Sunday at new GFBC

GARDENDALE — The first Sunday at the new home of Gardendale First Baptist Church saw standing-room-only crowds, and a few of what senior pastor Kevin Hamm called “challenges.”

Church officials reported attendance of 5,591 over the two services in the new sanctuary, located just off Mt. Olive Road about two miles north of the former facility.

The first service at 9:15 a.m. had crowds well over the posted sanctuary capacity of 2,504. The second service was nearly filled to capacity, with only scattered empty seats. That doesn’t include those in the youth service in a separate room during the 9:15 a.m. time period.

The huge crowds brought problems with getting worshippers out of the first service, in order to make room for those attending the second, or going to and from Bible fellowship (Sunday school) meetings in other parts of the new building. That issue resulted in a delay of a few minutes in the later service, which was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.

More of a problem was parking and access in and out of the new north campus. Gardendale police assisted in directing traffic in and out of both exits onto Mt. Olive Road, as well as that road’s intersection with Fieldstown Road.

Such problems were not entirely unexpected, and aren’t an ongoing cause for concern at the moment, Hamm said.

”I told our staff last week, ‘Don’t overreact, enjoy the day. Don’t make hard decisions on what happens today. Wait until we have had a few more weeks.’ If God continues to give us this increase, then there’s some things we’ll need to look at,” Hamm said.

The church even shot video of traffic going in and out of services. Hamm and his staff will meet with a traffic consultant in the next few days.

“We had a few people complain about the lines and such, but you always hear people complain about the lines at an Alabama or Auburn football game. But those people keep on going there,” Hamm said. “I had one lady say, ‘I’ll wait 20 or 30 minutes for that [kind of service] every Sunday.’ I think there’s an excitement here.”

The new facility is the culmination of a building program that began nearly a decade ago with the purchase of land for the new site. That effort began under Rev. Steve Gaines, Hamm’s predecessor.

Gaines, who left GFBC to replace the late Rev. Adrian Rogers as the pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in suburban Memphis, will return to his old church on the evening of Aug. 25.

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