Our Journey to Today…It was in 1996 that Bishop Leslie Barnes first mentioned the idea of building a place of worship for the people of God. This was to fill a growing need in the Church for more space and to build upon the idea of the Building Fund already established by Elder Linden Foster (deceased), Sister Shirley Blake and Sister Patricia Watson.
A trustee meeting was later held in the basement of the Church to officially launch plans for a new sanctuary to be constructed on land purchased at 590 Utica Avenue, Brooklyn, NY. A Building Committee was also formed having the following members:
- Bishop Leslie J. Barnes, Pastor
- Elder Gilbert Smiley, Asst. Pastor
- Elder Ivan Watson, Committee Chairman
- Evangelist Carmen King, Recording Secretary
- Elder James Bertram, Chairman for Fund Raising Programs
- Elder Dencel McDonald
- Deacon Byron Morris
- Sister Gwen Panton
- Sister Shirley Blake
- Mother Etta Barnes
We then spent the rest of the year laying a framework in terms of the professional team that would be needed, the size building that could be built and the possible sources of financing.
In 1997 we began the year where we left off and after various considerations for an architect, we finally selected Mr. Errol McIntosh, the head of McIntosh, P.A., Licensed Architects, to be the architect for the project. He was contracted to design and prepare all the plans and specifications for the building, including a model which was displayed at 868 Winthrop Street.
While work on the plans continued and armed with an estimate of the cost to build, we decided to start our search for financing by contacting our main bank with which we had built a long-standing relationship. To our surprise, however, we were told that they didn’t provide church loans and so went from one financing source to another without much success. We eventually contacted a bond underwriting company which, after reviewing our financial statements and background, agreed to underwrite a bond issue that would raise for us approximately 1.2 million dollars. The bond financing required a considerable amount of work in presenting the Church’s history, leadership, officers, membership, finances, mission and goals in a manner that would attract investors. We thus spent the remainder of 1997 pursuing this endeavor with countless phone calls and written correspondence to the underwriting company.
In 1998 we started the year with more work on the bond issue with the hope that we would be able to market our bonds within a few months. We, however, had to obtain audited financial statements for 1995, 1996 and 1997 and this required us to present many reports and supporting documents to Dispenziere & Co., CPAs. In addition, we had to obtain various appraisals on both the proposed new building and the 868 Winthrop Street location.
During the year we also held numerous meetings with the architect to help develop the architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing drawings and specifications. As work continued, we found that the cost to build had increased significantly beyond the maximum amount we could obtain from our bonds and this created a major issue. After considering all factors, including a year of hard work and many lessons along the way, we abandoned the bond effort because it had become too time consuming and costly in relation to the benefits to be derived. This decision thus forced more concentration of the project on dual fronts: 1) to obtain financing through traditional sources, and 2) to present the job to contractors for bids.
In 1999 we began the year with good news because on January 14, 1999 we obtained approval of the plans from the Building Department of the City of New York. This then opened the way for us to begin the formal bidding process, which took a significant part of the year to execute. The end result was that most of the bids came in higher than expected with one particular bid coming in at over $5 million. Even though we knew that this was a multi-million dollar project, we still had to be prudent and so more modifications were made to bring our costs in line with the amount we could finance.
Later in the year we received our audited reports with which we made various applications for financing at a number of area banks. At one of our meetings, one large bank sounded so promising that we felt certain our application would be approved – in a matter of days. To our disappointment, however, we were told that the “loan did not fit into their portfolio” – another way of saying no. During this process we discovered that banks generally view church loans as risky compared to regular businesses because churches: 1) sometimes lose their members, 2) usually don’t have proper financial records and, 3) depend mostly on the generosity of members which can be unpredictable.
Throughout this journey our faith gave us strength and the Lord always opened a new avenue each time a door closed on us. Thus, one of the banks led us to another – The Roslyn Savings Bank in Garden City, Long Island. We reluctantly started the process knowing our past experiences but instead found a bank that was impressed with our finances and structure and was prepared to partner with us. After providing various details, the Roslyn Savings Bank, on June 21, 1999 formally issued us a letter of intent for a substantial loan based on both properties. This was the result we had been working for and it brought much relief and joy to everyone involved. We were especially thankful to the Lord who had made this way and it gave us hope at a time when we needed it most. We were at our lowest point, with no other place to turn – but as usual, “man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.”
After that success our goal then was to find a builder within our budget but this proved to be a challenging task. Due to all the steps involved, we had to postpone our closing with the bank and focus most of our attention on a second bidding process. We spent most of the year on this endeavor and ended with some good news as we narrowed our selection to a few general contractors.
In 2000 we began the year with great promise as we pulled together a team of banker, builder, architect, owner’s representative and attorney. This team would propel the construction of our new Church. By law the project had to be reviewed and approved by the New York State Attorney General and our lawyers from Bozeman & Trott assisted us greatly in reviewing all the documents from the bank and also made a successful application before the Attorney General. We then closed with the Roslyn Savings Bank for a construction loan on May 12, 2000 and signed a contract with a general contractor on May 17, 2000. Work was to begin shortly thereafter but couldn’t until various permits were obtained. We were also concerned about the foundation work and the impact of the approaching winter. The construction progressed slower than expected due to all the coordination that had to be done; however, we closed the year with much optimism and anticipation for the new building.
In 2001 we began the year with much anticipation but many challenges confronted us even as the construction continued in earnest. However, because we had assembled a team with specialized skills and since the Lord was leading the way we were able to overcome the obstacles. One key member of the team was the owner’s representative, Keith Watson, an experienced Civil Engineer. He was instrumental in overseeing the project on our behalf and bringing to our attention all issues of importance. We found his services to be vital since he displayed awareness, experience and great problem solving skills without which the completion of this building would have taken a different course.
During the year, the building committee held many meetings to resolve issues as they arose and to keep the project on track. We were determined to finish the work the Lord had placed within our hearts since we, as others in the past, ” are in the kingdom for such a time as this.” Having therefore obtained help of the Lord, On November 24th, 2001 the congregation moved into a 1.2 million dollar edifice, at 590 Utica Ave, Brooklyn, NY–-a testament to the further Glory that will be revealed through God’s people.
We give the Lord thanks and praise for His provision and guidance over this five year journey. We recognize the work the Lord has done through us for His glory and feel such an honor to have been a part of the construction of this fine building. Our prayers are that many, many souls will be rescued and harvested for the kingdom of God through the preaching of the gospel in this sanctuary. By the Grace of God we have come this far & by His Grace, we will continue to better things!
To God belong all glory and praise and honor!