New congregation breaks ground on first building

The Rev. Hugh Cooper stuck his head outside the office door and boomed, "Come in! Come in!"

After marking an item in the draft of his Sunday sermon, he settled in for a chat about Trinity Baptist Church.

We viewed photographs of Cooper's former churches and discussed his celebration of 50 years as a Baptist minister.

When I met him two years ago, Cooper told me he began his career in radio. Although he took an atypical route to the ministry, he has been unable to leave.

He still arrives in the office with a broad, expectant smile, ready to do God's work. On this day, he wanted to talk not about himself but about Trinity's future plans and strides the congregation has made in two years.

When members formed the church, they invited Cooper to become pastor. On April 5, 2009, Cooper left retirement and preached his first sermon as Trinity Baptist's pastor.

The congregation met at Fat Boys restaurant but quickly outgrew the space and moved to Lake Norman Elementary School. In 2012, the dream of a permanent home will be realized when the congregation moves into a new building on Ervin Road.

Members have purchased 12 acres. The view from the hilltop overlooks Lake Norman and Perth Road. The congregation broke ground on the property after Easter Sunday services.

"This is an exciting time for our people," Cooper said.

He pointed to a plan for the new facility. The sanctuary will seat 500, and a multipurpose/classroom area can become a fellowship hall. Separate sections will provide classrooms for adults and youths. Groups no longer need search for meeting venues.

Currently, a men's organization gets together for prayer at Corine's Café, while the women, who once met in various homes, convene in a conference room. Lunch Bunch gatherings and Bible study sessions also are held in the temporary church offices.

Since 2009, teens have met at the home of Steve and Sandy Gambell for prayer on Wednesday nights. Membership in the youth group has increased. The group is planning a mission trip to Caswell, N.C., to paint and repair homes of older people with special needs.

Mission work is important to the congregation. Adults led by Gene Branson will travel to the Amazon region this summer. Bob Joyner will lead a mission trip to Honduras.

As the church reaches out to the community, younger adults with families are joining, boosting membership to 251.

"It's been really amazing," Cooper said.

Initially, five volunteers served as secretaries. Now Sarah Roland, a full-time secretary, greets visitors and coordinates schedules.

Until the new church is complete, the congregation will meet at Lake Norman Elementary School for Sunday school, morning and evening worship services. Church offices are at 121 Rolling Hill Road.

New Balance Girls on the Run

Girls on the Run teams will walk/run in a noncompetitive race May 14 at Lowe's corporate headquarters in Mooresville. The event, sponsored by Iredell Health System, begins at 9 a.m. Anyone may participate. Online registration at ends tonight, but participants still may register in person the day of the race. The fee is $15.

Volunteers are needed and may register on the website.