By Lance Hickey
Leicester – Nestled in the sheer, yet rolling mountains of Leicester sits a growing church community committed to investing in the future.
Leicester Baptist Church, located just off of New Leicester Highway, began to invest in its future two years ago, expanding its facility while preparing for the continued expansion of the Leicester community.
For this week’s edition of our Where We Worship series, I had the opportunity to attend Leicester Baptist Church.
Founded in the home of Charles and Louise Teague as a prayer service, a group of 23 people gathered on the dream of potentially starting a local church. The idea multiplied quickly. The church’s first service as an institutionalized organization began on March 5, 1989, with 55 people attending the worship service. Worships were held at the Leicester Community Center, eventually moving to Erwin Hills Restaurant before relocating to its current facility. Construction on its existing facility began in the fall of 1990 and was completed in 1991, according to church records. Jake Fender served as the first pastor of the church.
Recently, Leicester Baptist Church, under the leadership of pastor Chad Ellege, completed a 2017 renovation of its sanctuary and expansion of its facility. Ellege, who has led the church since October of 2012, pastored Old Pathway Baptist Church in Waynesville before taking the reins as lead pastor at Leicester Baptist Church. He and his wife, Rachel, and their two children currently live in Haywood County.
Service commenced at 11 as the parking lot began to fill with eager congregants. Walking into the building, it was easy to see why the church chose this property for its facility. Breathtaking views galore surrounded the northwest side of the campus, creating an imaginative, inviting ambiance.
Pastor Ellege stepped forward to welcome the congregation. Choir members found their places behind the pulpit. They stood to their feet as Ellege promptly turned to direct them into the first musical piece of the day, “Oh, What a Time.” The congregation sat listening intently to the choir, eventually standing a few songs later. As the choir began to sing the next song of the day, “Saved to the Uttermost,” many in the congregation raised their hands before echoing out a few more songs.
While the choir seemed to be a significant focus of the worship experience, several individuals stepped forward to sing solos. As two women led the church in the final song of the day, people from across the room stepped forward to the altar, bowing and praying while the piano played.
A time came for congregational fellowship. Parishioners stood and, moved across the sanctuary, greeting one another for the next few minutes. Relatively large in stature, the church sanctuary still felt intimate, creating a welcoming environment for guests.
Pastor Ellege stepped forward to give his Sunday morning sermon. Dressed in a black suit with a pink tie, Ellege energetically spoke about becoming overwhelmed with life and his belief that God’s grace helps those who become overwhelmed with life’s circumstances. In a free form, yet visual presentation style, the Leicester native used an umbrella over his head as an example of God’s grace coming over an individual. As the message came to a close, Ellege gave a final invitation for those who needed prayer before service was dismissed.
Service at Leicester Baptist Church proved to be a unique environment welcoming to all ages. Traditional in its presentation, the church continues to look for ways to reach its community, while also conducting various charitable drives throughout the year, according to church officials.
As the Leicester community continues its path towards growth, look for Leicester Baptist to continue in its efforts towards expansion and greater community impact and involvement.