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Downtown church gets $2 million makeover

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By Audrey Esther and Darren Brown, INsite Team 

When Tom Ogburn took over as senior pastor of the First Baptist Church, built in 1912, he knew the building that had stood the test of time could stand a makeover.

"We knew the day I walked in, this had to happen," Ogburn said. "We may not have said it out loud but I think we all recognized something dramatic had to happen." 

That "something" is a $2 million renovation of the 150,000-square-foot church in downtown Oklahoma City. The church raised most of the money and the renovation is scheduled to be completed in about a year, Ogburn said.

"We've been talking about this for two years now; it's time," he said.

The list of updates includes new sanctuary carpet, improving accessibility and restoring its east tower. 

Three years ago, filling the 900-seat sanctuary on Sunday morning was not likely.

"As downtown Oklahoma City faded, so did the population of this church," Ogburn said.

But as Oklahoma City's midtown area has been revitalized, the church's congregation has grown.

"If you stand outside our door on Sunday morning you'll watch people walking to church,"Ogburn said. "People walking from new condominiums, new apartment complexes and new homes in the area."

The church's fastest-growing population is 20- to 30-year-old urbanites. 

Other refurbishments will not be seen, but rather felt and heard. A new heat and air system and new sound system will be added. However, the first item on the list is a new industrial-grade dishwasher. 

Historically, the building is important to preserve, Ogburn said. Funeral services were held there for notable Oklahomans U.S. Sen. Robert S. Kerr and Wiley Post.

"The church has repeatedly affirmed that we will remain here on this corner," Ogburn said.

As with most churches, the message heard inside the walls is paramount to the walls themselves, he said.

"Although the bricks and mortar are very important, and the facilities are very necessary, all of that goes to support our missions and ministry," said Larry Fitch, chairman of the Renew First Project.



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