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How an old Erwinville sanctuary brought two church congregations together

Written by Otisha J. Paige on . Posted in Local

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Pulling up to Sharon Baptist Church in Erwinville, the old brick sanctuary stands resolute and full of promise. Flanking its side is the church’s Sunday school facility and the pastor’s house on the far end.

Sharon Baptist’s Pastor, Shawn Ostoj, stands in the Sunday school with an upright posture and a jovial nature. Sitting down nearby with poise is Pastor Tracey Epps Hawkins, Pastor of House of Restoration Ministry in Batchelor, La.

At first glance, the two pastors illustrate their friendship and belief in good works without having said a word to each other. Ostoj took his seat, eager to discuss the latest news regarding his church and Pastor Hawkins’ new addition for her congregation.

Sharon Baptist Church sold their sanctuary to the House of Restoration Ministry for $1, an act rarely heard of when selling property.

Pastor Ostoj spoke of the chance encounter a Sharon Baptist member, Ernest Swanson Jr,, had while at a movie theater. While leaving the theater, Swanson ran into a friend who asked about places to fellowship since he had yet to find a permanent church home.

Swanson mentioned to his friend, Cross Richard, that Sharon Baptist possessed an old sanctuary that was looking for someone to use it. Richard was unable to utilize the offer due to its Erwinville location, but forwarded the news of the sanctuary to other pastors.

“Hawkins from HOR was the first to respond and the rest is history,” said Swanson.

Hawkins said she met Ostoj in late April, and ever since, it’s been like a brother-sister bond.

“It was a God thing,” agreed Ostoj, smiling. “It was fellowship immediately.”

Hawkins nodded in testimony.

Joy exuded from Ostoj as he discussed the essential ‘giving away’ of the sanctuary to Hawkins. He said that he would have gladly given the sanctuary away free of charge to Hawkins and her congregation if taxes didn’t play into the decision.

“If you don’t sell property for something, then the owner will be charged based on the amount of the property,” said Ostoj.

Hawkins beamed with excitement and optimism at the thought of the effect the addition of the sanctuary will potentially have on HOR as well as its members, saying she was immensely grateful for being able to purchase the sanctuary for next to nothing.

“It’s a place of peace, a place to call home,” said Hawkins with sincerity.

Hawkins posited that the members were eager to begin work on the beautiful sanctuary and already have banners designed to decorate the hall.

Ostoj said that he decided to give the building away because he couldn’t bare to demolish it as it holds sentimental value to he and the rest of Sharon’s congregation.

“Many members’ parents helped build it so we couldn’t bear to tear it down after building the new sanctuary,” said Ostoj reflectively.

The consensus placed the old sanctuary with Hawkins with the belief that the building would be in good hands with her and her congregation. Ostoj said that Sharon Baptist members were glad to know it was going to be used again.

Hawkins said that the congregation at Sharon Baptist appears to have a very welcoming demeanor towards the congregation at HOR and has expressed a desire to be at the initial service at the sanctuary’s new home.

“The members requested having a joint service once we got situated at the new sanctuary,” said Hawkins.

To offset the cost of moving the sanctuary from Erwinville to Batchelor, as the move proved much more expensive than anyone expected, Ostoj came up with the idea to host a fair, called “Unity Day,” on August 17 and allow HOR to host another one on October 5 to serve as fundraisers.

He said that the cost of moving the sanctuary would be more than $100,000. Included in the cost is removal of the roof, loosening bricks, and splitting the building in half for easier transportation.

The fair received its name because “we’re working together under Christ for a common purpose,” said Ostoj.

The fair will include games for kids, a space jump, BBQ lunches for sale, a BBQ cookoff, a silent auction, sweet shop, face painting, and a worship service together to end the day according to Ostoj.

“We’re asking for donations as well as anyone and everyone willing to come out,” said Hawkins in a cheerful tone. “T-shirts will be sold at $10 each with the church logo on it.”

Hawkins referenced Psalm 133:1 - “How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in Unity!”- to best depict the relationship the two churches have.

“There’s no better scripture to capture the essence of this act and our relationship,” said Hawkins. “It’s about what we can see in the natural in a world today of division. God brought a white and black church together. There’s unity in the love of God because we could come together in one common goal.”

Ostoj shares Hawkin’s sentiments and believes that the relationship the two churches share will send a powerful message of unity to the community.

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