Church expansion brings 'New Hope' in tough economic times (VIDEO)

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Danbury, Connecticut — A multi-million dollar building project sounded a lot more practical for New Hope Baptist Church back in April 2007.

“The economy was a lot different then, a whole lot better,” said Rev. Ivan Pitts, New Hope’s pastor.

But now, roughly $5.6 million dollars – and two and half years – later, the expansion at the Danbury, Connecticut church is complete.

Church members now have a brand new sanctuary, more than four times the size of the original. The expansion also allows the church to house early learning care, a tutoring programs for kids, and a brand new library. It can now use its old space for things like senior citizen fellowship.

“We called the [building] project ‘Faith in Action,’” Pitts said. “We had no clue how much faith it would take to finish the action. But here we are.”

Pitts calls the journey from beginning to end “remarkable,” and credits his congregation’s dedication to the project despite financial turmoil.

“Man, God works in mysterious ways and this is no better example,” Pitts said. “We had people losing jobs one minute and coming in to help us paint, lift and organize the next.”

One of those church members was Rod Edwards.

Edwards’s job in information technology at IBM was outsourced to South America, his department dismantled.

The opportunity to help his church achieve its goal became his priority.

”[The project] probably helped me mentally,” said Edwards, whose wife also lost her job. “It helped me focus on the bigger picture. It wasn’t just about me and my individual circumstance.”

Nationwide, religious giving exceeded $100 billion in 2007 and 2008, according to the Giving USA Foundation. New Hope’s donors ranged from church members to non-believers, friends of friends to outside churches who heard about their community outreach efforts.

One church member who had gone away on a two-year assignment when the project began was still able to give New Hope a boost.

The member greeted Pitts two years later with offerings saved from the 20 months he had been away – a total of twenty $1,000 checks stuffed in envelopes for each month he was gone.

“I believe in miracles,” said Anita Rice, a New Hope member for eight years. “This structure is a perfect example of that. People gave from their hearts – whatever they had. And their church is here for them and always will be.”

Rev. Pitts says his church’s success proves faith can trump just about anything – and that hard work lays ahead.

“I think the next six months is going to be more taxing than the last six months,” Pitts said. “It’s time to start implementing ministries to fit the size of this place.”

Follow theGrio’s Todd Johnson on Twitter at @rantoddj