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SELMA — Temple Church, formerly known as Temple Baptist Church, plans to move from its current home on South Pollock Street beside Selma Memorial Gardens to a new location at the site of a former winery just off Interstate 95’s Exit 98.
The move is expected in a couple years after the church has refurbished the new site and builds a new sanctuary able to accommodate 1,800 people.
Thomas Parker, Temple’s worship and operations pastor, says the church’s history dates to 1970 when Temple Baptist Church, a church plant of Raleigh-based Midway Baptist Church, was formed with J.E. Edwards as the pastor.
Membership reached a peak of 150 attendees, though it also often dropped to near zero, Parker said.
In 1998, Rodney Pearce — the future lead pastor — was saved at Temple Baptist. Pearce became Temple’s pastor in 2005 after serving as an intern at Selma Baptist Church.
Pearce said only about 30 people attended his first service, with about half of those being family members and friends. The church held two Sunday worship services then, according to Parker.
In 2011, Parker joined the staff as worship pastor and Scooter Murphy came on board as family life and student pastor.
The church built its current facility in 2013 and had grown to 650 attendees still with two Sunday services.
In 2014, the church hired John Ecklund to serve as Celebrate Recovery pastor and in 2015, it added a Celebrate Recovery service on Friday evenings.
By 2016 weekly attendees were up to 1,000 and the church went to three Sunday services.
“We have experienced continued growth and this year, we have had an average of 1,585 attendees weekly,” said Parker.
About four years ago, the church family realized it was landlocked at the current site and needed more room to grow, Parker explained.
Church leaders began looking and found what they considered to be a suitable 27-acre tract of land on U.S. 70 West across from the Johnston Correctional Institution. The church purchased the property in 2018.
Parker said in the middle of all the searching, planning and purchasing of the land, another piece of property owned by Assemblies of God on Campground Road just off Interstate 95 beside the KOA campground became available.
“It went on the market and we made an offer they accepted,” said Parker. “We felt like it was God providing for us.”
Temple Church closed on the property last week.
The new location contains 42 acres of land and includes a 17,000 square-foot building that once served as Southland Winery and later as a restaurant.
The building is also fronted by a large lake visible from I-95 that’s a familiar landmark for many travelers.
Southland constructed the building in 1986 for use as a winery and owned the facility until 1997, when the Assemblies of God bought the property.
Following the sale to Temple Church, the Assemblies of God is expected to relocate to an unknown location.
Parker said among the plus factors for the new property are that it’s only 2.4 miles from the current church and is still within the Selma town limits.
Parker added that building the new church at the former winery instead of on the U.S. 70 property is expected to save the church about $5 million.
“The purchase of this property is the next chapter for our church,” said Pearce. “It allows us to expand our influence in the city of Selma as well as the entire county. My team and I are extremely grateful for the favor of God as we move forward.”