Thursday, March 18, 2004

Church in pain seeks healing

Work and faith amid controversy

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COLD SPRING - Members of the First Baptist Church of Cold Spring are hurting from controversy.

A criminal investigation into church spending. A bank threatening to foreclose. A rift over Pastor Larry Davis. Hate letters in the mail. A shouting match in the sanctuary.

Enough, Don Willig decided. Time to get back to being a church.

"We need a healing process to get us back on track to what we should be about," Willig said Tuesday night as he stood before the 200 or so members spread throughout the church's large sanctuary. "What we really need now is to come back together and heal. We're here for the Lord because he is here for us.

"That's what we are about, not all that other stuff that has been going on and you've been reading about in the newspapers and seeing on the news," Willig said.

On Wednesday night, however, the church was divided again, as Davis pushed the ouster of dissident deacons and other officers and replaced them with his supporters.

This is a difficult time for the church of more than 1,200 members. Questions have arisen over spending from a church construction account that was controlled by Davis. The Kentucky State Police and a Campbell County grand jury are investigating. Fifth Third Bank, concerned over use of construction fund money, has called the bank's $4 million mortgage loan.

The controversy has taken its toll.

Tired of seeing and hearing nothing but negative news about the church he loves, Willig and others decided to gather Tuesday and remind one another about what goes on at First Baptist out of the glare of controversy and strife.

"Look around," Willig said. "You don't see people divided. You see we have come together for their church."

There are still different services every Sunday, including one catering to the traditional Baptists, a more contemporary service featuring live music for the younger crowd and one geared to the growing Hispanic population.

Sunday school continues to meet. Evangelism goes on in the form of community outreach programs designed to introduce people to the church. Volunteers watch children for the Mothers Day Out.

"We love our church and we love the spirit here," said member Marjorie Hake. "This is what we are here. Times have been tough but our faith is strong."

Several members said it was their faith in God that has helped them through the ordeal.

"We ask you to bless the church," said member Joe Jennings as he led the congregation in prayer. "And continue to show us the way."

Charles Gray's voice cracked with emotion as he prayed for reconciliation and redemption.

"Help us, Father, reconcile that the church needs healing now," Gray said. "What we are going through now is just a bump in the road on the way to heaven."


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