By Louise Scott, Gary Crusader
Although Unity Baptist Church is only eight years old, it has been able to purchase a building and pay off its mortgage in a short amount of time. The Unity church pastor and congregation now call their church home a building that is more than 100 years old.
Rev. Jerry Protho, pastor of Unity, says it really took the church less time than that because they were not in their current building at first. During Unity’s first year, services were held in the Diamond Center of the former Bennigans Restaurant until they were ready to move into its current home at 2019 Connecticut Street.
The church building Unity Baptist purchased was originally built in 1915 and owned by St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church. St. Save eventually decided to build a new church in Merrillville so they sold the church to Morning Star Baptist Church. Unity purchased it from Morning Star Baptist because they too were building a new church. Rev. Protho said St. Sava fellowshipped with them last year. He said, “When they came they brought some of their children and grandchildren because they wanted them to see some of their humble beginnings.”
Rev. Protho said there is a bell at Unity that has been there when St. Sava first built it. He said one of the elders of St. Sava wanted to know if it was still there. He said, “He walked up three flights of steps to see it because he wanted to ring it. We even ring it on Sundays.”
Unity Baptist Church had been working to pay off the mortgage for the past six years. “Our goal was to pay it off in five years, but we paid it off in six. We paid it off the second week in December of 2015 and became debt free because of tides, offerings and a lot of prayer,” he said.
He said, “Our congregation is not that large, but we have some committed people who trusted in God, gave what they had and God gave the increase. He made the difference.”
Last Sunday, Morning Star Baptist, where the pastor is the Rev. Hollis Mannon, fellowshipped with Unity Baptist for the transferring of the deed ceremony. This Sunday, February 7 there will be a burning of the mortgage service at 4 p.m. in the church parking lot. The guest church for the service inside the church will be the Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, where the pastor is the Rev. Marion Johnson.
Rev. Protho said he is so thankful for those who make up the membership of Unity Baptist Church, for their commitment, prayers and dedication. He said, “Now we have some more work to do.”
Their next project is to do some work around the church and develop a strategic plan not only for the church building but for the church neighborhood as well. Rev. Protho said, “In the neighborhood half the homes are abandoned. We have to put a plan together on how we can revitalize the neighborhood.”