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TrueNorth breaks ground for new facility
Martintown Road had a flood of foot traffic Sunday afternoon, in the midst of TrueNorth Church's latest milestone celebration.
The congregation, which was established in 2007 and has held most of its Sunday worship services at North Augusta High School, held a ground-breaking and dedication service for its future base of operations - a 16-acre parcel, now a pasture slightly less than a mile from the high school.
Most of the participants, after gathering at the school's stadium, took part in a procession, walking up Knobcone Avenue to the new site for an hour of fellowship and celebration. Traffic was stopped for several minutes on Knobcone and then also on Martintown while the congregation arrived by foot, baby strollers and buses.
"This is an important step for the church," said Dan Boothe, a congregation member. "We've grown incredibly over the past few years, so this gives us an opportunity to be able to accommodate more people and really just do what the church is supposed to do, and be a family."
The Rev. Steve Davis, TrueNorth's senior pastor, used steel to help begin Sunday's event, as he entered the scene in a mini-bulldozer, hitting (and flattening) a pine tree at full-speed as a symbol of the land to be cleared in the months ahead.
Hundreds of trowels and helium balloons were already in place. Participants were invited to write a prayer on a balloon (using a Sharpie) and take part in a mass balloon release after everyone, gathered around the outlines of future buildings, had the chance to move some soil.
Davis, who expressed thanks for his family's support through the "journey," recalled TrueNorth's beginnings.
Referring to one of his sons, he said, "I'm often reminded of Christian, when he was just 8 or 9 ... He said, 'Dad, how are we going to build a church with about eight people?' Well, Christian, here's your answer ... Through the power of God and Christ Jesus, all things are possible, my son."
Davis also expressed gratitude for years of support from Cedar Creek Church, an Aiken congregation that helped provide a model and financial springboard for TrueNorth.
The Rev. Richard Swift, Cedar Creek's original pastor, was recognized in particular. A conversation between Swift and Davis led to inspiration "that North Augusta needed a place like Cedar Creek," Davis recalled.
Swift, who offered the opening prayer, congratulated the assembly and noted that "you're seeing the fulfillment of God's promise."
Congregation member Sam Abbott, a senior at Erskine College, said, "I was surprised - very pleasantly surprised - that there were so many people at the ground-breaking because it's very rare for our entire church to be able to gather together, because we're split up into four services."
It was particularly touching to be near the front of the entry procession and "able to look back, at the top of the hill, and see everybody walk up," she said. "It was amazing."
One of the event's leaders estimated Sunday's assembly as numbering about 1,500.
Davis said TrueNorth will probably have a new roof over its head by the summer of 2014. "We're probably talking about 18 months."
The church's current base is about a mile away, also on Martintown Road, on the other side of I-20. Plans are for the entire operation to be relocated to the new site, which was purchased in 2009 and is just across the road from the former strawberry patch, on Knobcone Avenue.
Davis noted, "We've started a fourth service, and so we're continually wanting to continue to reach people, knowing that we'll be moving into this facility and not wanting to slow down, so we'll have to see what happens."
The entire package, including the land and anticipated construction, is budgeted for $8.9 million.
"We knew we couldn't stay in the school forever," Davis said, "even though the relations with the school and Aiken County school system has been unbelievable. They have been awesome to work with ... I think the goal was to get a permanent foundation so TrueNorth will be here for years beyond all of us as leaders."