An $8.5 million project with 39,000 square feet on Hwy. 371
ay Jackson has been a home builder and developer for 40 years, but his experience drawing up plans for a new house of worship for his home church, First Baptist of Platte City, represents a first.
The Parkville resident said not only was this experience his lone involvement in the construction of a church, it also was the fastest design job he has ever tackled. Jackson said although he’s put pencil to paper for dozens of homes, he never experienced the process with such speed and effortlessness.
“It just came to me so easy,” he said, citing divine inspiration as his guide in the two-day process to draw basic plans for the $8.5 million, 39,000-square foot-facility. The new church home currently is under construction in an open field just north of Platte City.
“God-the Holy Spirit just kind of got in my head and it came together,” the owner of Jay Jackson Builders Inc. of Platte Woods said during a telephone interview.
Jackson, a First Baptist Church member for about seven years, said he sat on a building committee and the group met with an architectural firm that “just couldn’t see the vision.” When Pastor Rusty Savage described the church leader’s vision and that of the congregation, Jackson decided to transfer a plan he saw in his mind to paper. With Jackson’s drawings in hand, the church proceeded to find an architectural firm to create the final, detailed plans for what would become the church’s new home.
The white, metal-roofed structure “looks like it belongs in a rural setting in Missouri,” Savage said of the building nestled in a hillside, allowing for pick-up and drop-off at ground level on both stories. Drive-up access, a feature important to accommodate the diverse population which stretches from infants through the elderly, is accomplished on the church’s front and rear because of its earth-contact style.
The church’s present facility at 214 Ferrel St., in downtown Platte City, which is 19,000 square feet, will be converted to a school for autistic children. The school is scheduled to take possession in mid-July. The church’s last worship in the present building, which is located one block south of Main Street, is scheduled for Sunday, July 19.
The present location was constructed in 1973 to replace the original church facility, which was a small, wood-frame structure that, having been built in 1851, pre-dated the Civil War. The original building was in bad shape and was torn down in 1969 in preparation for the 1970’s brick-structure , which consists of two connected buildings.
The first step in the congregation’s quest for a new home was to find a suitable location, which church leaders purchased in 2007 when they discovered a 100-acre vacant farmland a little more than a mile north of Platte City along Hwy. 371. Church leaders purchased the former farmland from the Benner family, whose ancestors purchased the land in 1884, likely from German immigrants who settled Platte County during the 1850’s and 60’s.
During 2019, church leaders sold 40 acres of the land after they determined they did not need the entire farm property, Savage said. The new church site is located not far from the KCI Airport, which is expected to drive growth to the area during a projected future residential, light industrial and retail building boom.
Because the congregation has been planning for the new building for more than a decade, seeing the project nearing completion “is a dream come true,” Savage said.
The site was the location of a “Century Farm,” a University of Missouri designation during the 1980’s, meaning the property had been in the family for more than 100 years. A farmhouse on the property burned in the 1960’s, leaving a barn the only original structure on the site prior to construction. Although the barn recently was torn down to make way for the church, it served as inspiration for the new church’s sloped metal roof and is reminiscent of barns that once dotted Platte County farmlands. Church members also used the old barn structure for church picnics and weddings until it was torn down in the spring of 2019.
The new facility is the answer to a two-decade long struggle with a burgeoning population in which the 100 members comfortably fit into the space during the 1990’s, to a very crowded congregation of 450 today, said Savage, who became the church’s pastor in 1991. To get by, leaders have tried various methods, including utilizing many vacant buildings, some in the area’s historic downtown, for various programs. The church hosted numerous fund-raising campaigns, including a current drive with $2 million in commitments.
Leadership plans a grand opening sometime this fall, though no detailed plans have yet been determined.
Another of the building’s necessary features is an open upper level, with expansive areas for children, teens, and young adults to meet and study-all populations with high attendance, Savage said. There are two kitchens-one on the lower level for food prep and serving, along with a smaller upstairs serving kitchen for coffee and refreshments. The new facility also has ample space on the lower for the seven full-time staff members. But the building lacks many traditional church finishes, including stained glass windows. “As beautiful as it is, it’s very practical and functional,” Savage said.
Practical functions include an expansive foyer that easily will accommodate large gatherings between services. The focal point is a wooden cross, centered above an elevator, mounted on its shaft. A friend of Jackson’s is constructing the cross using old barn-wood.
A few historical items, including some furnishings and the original working church bell, which pre-dates the current building, will be transferred to the new facility, Savage said. The bell, mounted on a four-foot tall brick platform, is struck manually using a clapper mounted on the inside of the cast iron or bronze piece. Savage said he still occasionally rings the bell-the last few years, in honor of those who perished in the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Church leaders will continue to offer online worship, as they have during the pandemic, until the building is move-in ready, Savage said. Until the congregation’s final worship in the downtown building, leaders are offering limited in-person worship following strict distancing as required by the Platte County Health Department. Pre-recorded online worship, available beginning at 8 a.m. each Sunday on YouTube and the church’s Facebook page at FBC Platte City, will continue through the building’s completion sometime this fall, Savage said.
The congregation just began meeting again in person about three weeks ago following a hiatus from March to early June when participation was limited to online. He added that the current Platte County Health Department restrictions have meant church staff limit participation to 45 to 50 people at each of the three Sunday morning worships. In addition, strict social distancing measures are being taken, he said (families can sit together). While masks were required the first week in-person services resumed, they now are optional, unless the county health department revises the rules.
Although it might seem a stressful time to open a new church, Savage said the message is incredibly relevant.
“Hope is more important than ever,” he said of today’s people living through an era that “can seem very hopeless.” The principles apply to the church’s mission statement, which includes the phrase “connecting people to God, each other, and the needy world.”
But, the “architects” of the new facility stop short of taking credit. One thing you will not see is a plaque naming those involved with the church building project, Jackson said, adding that the building committee never even discussed a means of recognition. He said, “I think we all felt like this is God’s building–not ours.”