By Riley Manning
TUPELO – For the past seven years, the Rev. Jeffrey Daniel and the congregation of White Hill Missionary Baptist Church have at times felt like the people of Abraham, wandering from place to place at God’s command in the book of Genesis.
But after seven years of planning, construction, and setbacks, White Hill will have its inaugural worship service on Sunday in impressive new facilities located at 1987 Eason Blvd.
“This is a great opportunity,” Daniel said. “Sometimes change is uncomfortable, but necessary.”
Daniel said the rule of thumb is to build extra facilities when the current capacity becomes consistently 80 percent full. In recent years, White Hill has built additions onto its current structure, and began offering two services to accommodate the rapidly growing church body.
“In the 8 a.m. service we have between 500 and 600 in attendance, and at the 11 a.m. we have around 400,” Daniel said. “We’re growing at a pretty good pace, adding about 160 members per year. This year we’ve exceeded that with about 180.”
With more members who have attended White Hill for less than five years than more than five years, Daniel attributes the growth to a willingness to make services engaging.
“People say there’s nothing like the White Hill experience,” Daniel said. “They never know what’s coming from one service to the next. Our services are dynamic, not quiet, but not over the top.”
Construction began in 2009, but hit a snag in summer 2010, when Daniels found out the ground they were building on was designated as a wetland.
“All of a sudden we had to bring in a wetland consultant, an archaeologist, a mitigation bank,” Daniel said. “It was frustrating. It definitely challenged our faith, and the faith of our congregation to stick with the church. Now we’re at a stage of double excitement.”
Paid for by a capital stewardship campaign which called members to give above their normal offering, as well as contributions from families within and outside the church, the new church is estimated by Daniel to be the largest predominantly black church in Lee County. In addition to a sanctuary equipped to comfortably hold almost 1,000 people, the building contains dozens of rooms for choir, children and Bible studies.