Souls Harbor Baptist Church has grown remarkably in 33 years, considering its humble beginnings.
"The church was started in a garage back in 1981," said Pastor Robert Hughes. "Joe Henry was pastor at that time."
Services were later moved to a building in the Stanleyville area for a short time before the current church was constructed in 1983 on property along Caywood Road
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Pastor Robert Hughes stands in front of Souls Harbor Baptist Church on Caywood Road Thursday afternoon. In the background is the steel framework for the church’s new auditorium and fellowship facility expected to open this fall.
Henry continued as minister until around 1996 when another pastor, Sam Greene, took over for a year or so. Hughes assumed the pastoral duties in 1997.
"The church was growing so we doubled the size of the auditorium and put a basement underneath," Hughes said. "Then in 2004 a gymnasium and fellowship building was constructed. But for the last five or six years we've been concerned that more space is needed. So we started this new building project last fall."
The steel superstructure for the new facility has already been erected just behind the current church building, and Hughes said he hopes the project will be completed around September of this year.
"It will house a fellowship area in the basement with a new auditorium above that seats 490 people," he said.
Church secretary Chris Hill has attended Souls Harbor for 15 years.
"You don't see many churches growing like this, and people who visit here often comment on that," she said. "We're an independent church, meaning we don't belong to any particular denomination. And anyone is welcome to come worship with us."
Souls Harbor provides a variety of ministries at the church for the youngest through the oldest members.
"We also offer a special Friday night Bible-based ministry called Reformers Unanimous designed to help people who are facing additions of all types," Hughes said. "And through our Seedline ministry a group of members assemble Bible booklets written in 18 different languages that are sent all over the world. We've sent out more than 3 million of those so far."
One of the church's most popular events is the annual vacation Bible school held in July.
"We have close to 200 people a night during the Bible school," Hughes said.
Souls Harbor continues to grow for simple reasons, Hughes said
"We just preach the Bible and put all the focus on God's Word," he said. "I spend a lot of time in study, and just feel that if people are coming to church they should be hearing the word."
He said the membership of Souls Harbor is a very unified and welcoming group.
"Church should be a place where people can come to heal, and I believe our growth has been due to giving those people what they need," Hughes said. "And if this new building becomes filled we'll build on even more space."