Maranatha Baptist Church to head east to new facility

RANTOUL — A longstanding Rantoul church will be moving to a new home.

Maranatha Baptist Church, 122 S. Chanute St., will begin services at its new digs on North Maplewood Drive beginning in April.

The church will be located in the building that, until last fall, housed Stone Creek Church, which has closed.

The Rev. Mark Wilkerson, who has pastored Maranatha Baptist since 2006, said the congregation will try to sell its current building.

“We would like to sell it for somebody to use as a church,” Wilkerson said.

Stone Creek Church was a satellite of Stone Creek Church in Urbana.

Wilkerson said the new building will offer several advantages over its current location, including a larger auditorium (the current one seats about 100, while the new site seats about 250), easier access due to no stairs and more room to grow.

He said the church will hold an open house the second Sunday in April. The following Sunday is Easter, which will also kick off the church’s spring revival. It will also mark Maranatha’s 41st anniversary.

The church was started following a split from the local Bible Baptist Church. The current Maranatha building has roots in Chanute Air Force Base. The auditorium features arches salvaged from barracks on the former base.

“It lends uniqueness and class” to the building, Wilkerson said. “You can tell by the way it was built ... that it was built” with volunteer labor.

At one time the Maranatha building was an Assembly of God church.

Maranatha’s first pastor was David Anthony, who came from Bible Baptist. The church services originated in a house in which Anthony lived upstairs, and the church met downstairs. Wilkerson said the church then began meeting in the old community center (now Community Service Center) on Wabash Avenue before moving to the

Chanute Street location. The church bought the building in 1985.

Anthony pastored the church for about a year before Bruce Kelly came to serve as pastor for about 10 years until 1993.

“When the base was closing, everything was changing,” Wilkerson said. “Members kept moving and moving, so (Kelly) moved too, to Calvary Baptist Church in Tinley Park, Ill.”

Bill Dumpert later served as minister for 11 years until 2006 when Wilkerson came on board.

“When I moved here the church was over $100,000 in debt,” Wilkerson said. “We refinanced the building to keep the church afloat financially. We began to manage the debt and improved the building.

Improvements included upgrading the parking area, replacing outdated windows, installing new roofs on the church building and two smaller buildings it owns, adding new siding, remodeling the basement and fellowship hall.

“The church is probably in the best shape it’s been in since we’ve been here. We did the best we could with the bathrooms,” Wilkerson said, noting that for all those years the church had just two one-seaters.

Wilkerson said attendance has been strong, averaging 75 to 90 people. The church holds Sunday morning and evening services and a Wednesday night Bible study.

Last Wednesday, the church met at the Maplewood Drive location for a Bible study.

Wilkerson estimates the new church building was built in the 1960s — used initially as Rantoul Christian Church following a split from Bethany Park Christian Church. A large addition was added in 1983, which includes the auditorium.

Rantoul Christian Church later gave the property to Stone Creek Church. The Rev. Wesley Miller pastored Stone Creek for the past few years before leaving for another pastorate.

Maranatha will install a new roof on the east wing, add new flooring in the fellowship hall and restructure the auditorium “to make it ours,” Wilkerson said.

As with many church projects, much of the work will be done by volunteer (church members’) labor.

“We are excited,” Wilkerson said. “This is a great opportunity for our church to move forward. There is room for growth. This will be a better place for our church.”


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