SEBRING — June 3 marked the first day of demolition of the former Sunridge Baptist Church building, changing the landscape of U.S. 27 North for coming years.

Early last Monday morning, the jaws of a lone mechanical excavator began ripping and tearing through the interior foundations of the building. Pastor Timothy Finch, the senior pastor of Sunridge Baptist Church since 2011, looked on with mixed emotions of the remnants of the church. With no plans to ever sell the property he said, “… in the past we have turned down dozens of offers on that property. When we were first approached, the first comment I would make was that we are not interested.”

He said two major factors played in the change of mind.

“Our insurance did not cover what we expected …,” referring to the devastation on the property left by recent hurricanes, especially Irma in 2017. “We would have had to put in almost $100,000 just to get the building back to pre-Irma conditions.”

Then, at the right time, an opportunity arose when a group of investors approached Finch and his congregational leaders. This opportunity made it possible for them to build a new church building only “250 feet away from the former existing church building.”

Finch logically summed it up, “Irma, and the condition of the building, enabled us to do two things: not focus on the premises as much and build a building that will meet the current needs of our community. So, we designed a building for the future, for outreach, and to meet the needs of our community.”

As a result, Finch and his congregational leaders began surveys in the community and found a need.

“We looked into areas of crisis and major needs. Along with our seniors, we have a vast group of young people that we would like to reach, especially in the areas of education and sports. We want to build a facility where we can connect with them and their families and also our seniors,” he said.

The new building will contain updated technology that will improve the church’s outreach.

As Finch shared his concern about his community he said, “The building is just another tool, an opportunity for us to connect.”

When speaking about the old building, a sense of nostalgia can be seen as he looked away in thought. “It was a great building block. It served its purpose and you hate to see it go because it holds so many memories. The value is not in the construction, it is in the hearts and the lives that were changed there. It is just a flood of emotions,” he said.

Finch’s new focus is now looking to the future: “We are staying on our path and our calling … the future is exciting, but the present is challenging.”

The former church building is being torn down to make way for the construction of a Wawa convenience store at the corner of U.S. 27 and Valerie Boulevard, as previously reported by the Highlands News-Sun.

In order to get in touch with Pastor Finch of Sunridge Baptist Church, the church still maintains its phone and web address. Also, with the generosity of Covenant Presbyterian Church, services are held at that location. For more information, call 863-382-3695 or visit the website at www.sunridgebaptist.com.

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