First Baptist seeks church-sharing ideas

CENTRAL JP—First Baptist Church is looking for groups to share its still-unfinished sanctuary space in the hopes of one day worshipping there itself.

The 633 Centre St. church, which is still rebuilding from a 2005 fire, last week issued a request for proposals from community groups to use the roughly 6,400 square feet of space, which includes a 60-foot-high ceiling.

The idea is to get a plan in place that will boost fund-raising for the estimated $300,000 it will take for the sanctuary to get a basic occupancy permit, the church’s pastor, Rev. Ashlee Wiest-Laird, told the Gazette. But the church will be seeking long-term partners as well, because the sanctuary cannot be sustained financially solely by worship.

“It’s not going to be a Sunday use only. It’s always going to be a multi-use space,” Wiest-Laird said. “There won’t ever be pews,” because they are too awkward to move to rearrange the space for different uses, she said.

The church is wide open to brainstorming uses for sharing the space, Wiest-Laird said.

“We know churches that partner with dance studios,” she said. “We could put in a whole lot of dividers and put in 10 nonprofit offices.”

“I’ve joked about a movie theater,” Wiest-Laird said—though it’s not entirely a joke, as the pastor, a movie buff, has envisioned “a giant screen and beanbag chairs” in the space.

First Baptist current worships in the ground-floor part of the church, which is already rents out. Bridge Boston Charter School will leave this summer after a year, and the church is currently working on a two-year lease agreement with a preschool, Wiest-Laird said. The ground floor is not part of the request for proposals.

The basic sanctuary occupancy work would include installing restrooms and an elevator. While the area will not have pews, First Baptist is eager to install its historic 1872 organ, which remains in storage.

There is no announced deadline for responses to the proposal request. For more information, contact [email protected].

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