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Growing Putnam congregation moves into new location

HURRICANE - The congregation of the Teays Valley campus of River Ridge Church has settled into a new home that was once a car dealership.

The facility has been transformed to meet the needs of the growing church.

"The transformation of an existing building and bringing something back to life is a powerful symbol of what it means for us as believers," Pastor Chad Cobb said. "The scripture says that through Christ we are new creations."

The church at 1 Saturn Way in Hurricane has been a Saturn dealership as well as other businesses, including a spot where campers were sold.

The Putnam County congregation began meeting at West Teays Elementary in 2008. River Ridge also has a Charleston location on Greenbrier Street past Capital High School where Matt Santen serves as pastor.

"At West Teays Elementary, we outgrew the space and had gone to two services," Cobb said. "We began looking for property two years ago."

When church leaders learned the current building was available, a team of experts checked it out and pointed out amenities.

"They saw things we never saw," Cobb said. "We dreamed and prayed. It's amazing how little we had to do."

Renovations began in mid-April and proceeded quickly.

The facility got a fresh coat of paint and new carpet. One wall was torn down and a few more constructed to create the desired interior. An elevator was added to the two-level structure.

The 19,000-square-foot facility has generous lighting from spacious windows.

The sanctuary is located on the lower level in what was once a maintenance center. At the West Teays Elementary location, the congregation included about 450. The first service at the new location on Aug. 18 drew 750, including "family, friends, and well-wishers," the pastor said.

However, several members of the congregation visited a week before the open house and wrote scriptures on the sanctuary floor before it was covered with carpet.

 The lower level also includes a large lobby, office, restrooms, adult classroom, and youth meeting area where a high school student painted "The Garage" on one wall. There are game tables as well as seating areas for the teens. The pastor said the idea is to keep it open throughout the week so young people have a safe gathering spot.

"The idea is to create a place where kids can pop in after school and not just on Sunday," he said. "This location is so convenient for the community."

The upper level has classrooms for all ages, storage space and restrooms. A "sensory room" is set aside for special needs children who may become over-stimulated in a regular classroom setting. The room has special toys and soft music geared to create a sense of calmness.

When parents arrive on Sunday, they are given name tags to match the ones given to their children. For further security, a computerized system is used for registration. If a child is in a nursery and a parent is needed, that information is flashed on a screen in the sanctuary.

"We have a lot of young families," Cobb, 38, said.

He and his wife, Sarah, a registered nurse, are the parents of Aaron, 11, Katie, 9, Ben, 6, Annie, 5, and Daniel, who was born June 27.

A former civil engineer, Cobb is currently enrolled in seminary through Trinity Divinity School.

The cost of purchasing the building with more than four acres of land was about $1.2 million. An additional $1 million went into renovations. Pledges were gathered to cover the cost at the Putnam County campus, and additional funds were collected for expanding the Charleston location to add nursery and ministry space.

Many mainline congregations have seen dwindling congregations. So, why have the nondenominational River Ridge locations grown so rapidly?

"The short answer is I don't know," Cobb said. "I don't have a good answer. For us, we have been faithful to God's word. We teach the truth of God's word in practical ways and keep our pulse on the needs of our society."

There are two contemporary Sunday services, including 9:30 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. A series entitled "Fear" begins Sept. 8 and will focus on overcoming fears and a loving God.

Go to www.RiverRidge.org for more information.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlotte@dailymail.com or 304-348-1246.


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