“Major!” That’s the word Senior Pastor, Fred Luter, Jr. used to describe the recent dedication ceremony of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church.
Nearly 25 months ago, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church (FABC) broke ground to begin working on its new church home located in New Orleans East. On Dec. 9, members of the congregation and the community at large took part in the celebration of the completion of its new sanctuary.
The service began with a moving Ribbon Cutting ceremony. It was followed with an emotional and spirit-filled worship service in the main sanctuary.
FABC is located on I-10 Service Road East off the Crowder Blvd. I-10 exit. Pastor Luter says this location was purposely chosen for several reasons.
“We’re really excited about being in New Orleans East. We selected this area because, one, it’s in our opinion, the fastest growing area in the city, but also there’s a real need for economic development.”
He is extremely optimistic about the positive impact their church can have on the community.
“Our prayer is that this investment that we’ve made in New Orleans East will start a renaissance of other things that need to happen,” Luter says. “We feel by coming here and investing all of the money that we did in this area will hopefully motivate some entrepreneurs and also elected officials to also consider making New Orleans East a priority when it comes to future restaurants, shopping areas and places to stay. We just hope it will be an economic boost for this community.”
The beautifully designed 126,000 square-foot building features a 3,500-seat sanctuary and multi-purpose building. Also included in the layout are multiple Sunday school classrooms, churches for children and youth, a fellowship hall, kitchen facilities and conference rooms. The church’s pastors and administrators will also have office accommodations on site.
Pastor Luter humbly credits the 5,000 plus church congregation who willingly gave through their tithes and offerings in order to see their collective vision come into fruition.
“We’ve come this far by faith in our creator – God the father,” he says.
As he reflected over his many years in leadership of FABC, and the building of the new sanctuary, he shared in great detail the peaks and valleys of what brought them to this point. “We’d been right there on Franklin Avenue since I came there over 30 years ago. We ran out of space. There was no parking to speak of. People had to park four to five blocks just to come to church.”
Expansion of their former church building was something the entire congregation was looking forward to completing. And, in 2004, they were investing in a 90-acre plot of land near Six Flags in the New Orleans East area. However, Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, completely flooding their church and forcing members to leave the area.
Pastor Luter was admittedly frustrated and saddened but never deterred from his faith or belief that somehow, someway, they would rebuild again.
So how does it feel for Pastor Luter and the congregation to be in this new sanctuary?
“People were crying tears of joy,” he says. “The Sunday before the Dedication Ceremony, there was an ‘open church’, you know, similar to like an open house. Staff members and the congregation could see our new place of worship.”
Overcome with joy in his voice, he continued his thoughts with full humility and thanksgiving. “ to come here now with over 1200 parking spots on the property, access on Lake Forest and the I-10 service road, and then to have room for everyone in the sanctuary – no one has to go to an overflow room or another room to watch service on TV – just really brought a lot of excitement to people’s hearts.”
With a servant’s heart and long-standing commitment to community, Pastor Luter maintains a positive perspective on the future of their new location.
“We’re excited to be in this location. We’re excited to be in this new building. We’re trusting and believing that this will not only be a boost for Franklin Avenue, but also, all of the other churches and neighborhoods in this community.”