By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
In the early morning hours of August 4, 2020, the intense winds of Tropical Storm Isaias caused the front stained-glass window and wall of the original First Baptist Church of Lambert’s Point to collapse.
A decade ago, the congregation built a new facility. The aging and original structure, first named the Burrows Missionary Baptist Church was founded in 1893 and sits in the 1200 block of W. 38th Street at Bluestone Avenue.
Before the storm struck, the church leaders, including Senior Pastor Rev. Anthony Paige, aimed to convert the old structure to a community fine arts and education center.
Rev. Paige, who will be retiring early next year, vowed to restore the facility.
So, he has led a fundraising campaign that secured donations from Dominion Power, labor, and other help from local military personnel who built a new stage and other amenities inside the church.
But the front facade, including the brick wall and the stained-glass windows, were not in place and a huge gash existed.
But as of last week, Rev. Paige and the neighbors nearby watched as a work crew erected iron support beams and closed the gaping hole in the front of the structure.
The wall that collapsed was part of the oldest section of the building. It was once the church’s sanctuary, and the missing wall has exposed the old choir loft.
“When I came here in 1990, that was the sanctuary,” Pastor Paige told a reporter from WAVY-TV 10 hours after the incident, referring to the old part of the building that was damaged.
“That was the first pulpit I stood in.”
“I don’t call it Mother Nature,” Paige added. “I call it God and I think it’s amazing what God can do. And I know that God is going to take this building and He is going to bring it to another level.”
Paige said this phase of the restoration of the church was slowed because steel beams bought from an overseas source fell victim to the global supply chain chokehold.
Thousands of massive transports ships carrying goods from Europe and Asia cannot be unloaded due to the shortage of manpower on various ports, including Hampton Roads.
Now, according to Paige, with the first phase of the repair of the front facade to close the hole, brick and other materials must be put in place.
Then the completion of the interior of the facility can take place to transform the old structure inside.
When it is finished, the facility will be named “The Mary Elizabeth Jones Center for the Performing Arts.”
She was a longtime member of First Baptist Lambert’s Point, who passed away several years ago.
Paige said that he and his congregation have a vision for the Center to serve not only the adjacent neighborhoods but communities citywide.
The center will be part of the church’s existing community outreach and services programs ministries.
“We have so few places in our city where our children… students can access, train, and display skills in the arts and other areas,” said Paige. “There will be space for dance, theater, art, and other disciplines areas. We want the center to be part of the community.
Fine arts is important in every community.”
The facilities of the proposed center will be supplemented by the ones in the newer church which include music production, meetings and performance spaces.
“We will continue to ask for donations and support from varying sources. I thank all of the people, companies, and organizations who have made contributions,” said Paige. “But it will take time.
Everything that is worth doing to benefit our people and community takes time.”
Donations can be mailed to First Baptist Church Lamberts Point, 1268 W. 38th Street, Norfolk, VA 23508.