Purple and praise were the items of the day at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens.
After nearly 50 years in the same building, the congregation, led by the Rev. Anthony W. Greene, paraded from the old sanctuary to a new location Jan. 13. Many wore purple to match the purple carpeting and decorations in the $1.2 million building.
On the steps, Greene read from Psalms 24, saying "the King of Glory shall come in" before cutting the ribbon with Tampa City Council member Frank Reddick. Several hundred worshippers entered as they sang "We've Come This Far by Faith."
Deacon Marshall Watkins opened the service with prayer.
"We made it now, Father," he said. "Thank you, Jesus."
It took a couple of capital campaign drives, a bank loan and 11 months of construction to build the 400-seat facility, which stands besides the old church, built in 1964 with seating for approximately 225.
"We outgrew it; there were no classrooms; and the building was old," Greene said. "It was more advantageous to build a new one" than try to repair or remodel it.
Greene is only the second pastor of the church, started in 1958 by the late Rev. John S. Stephens in his home. Greene took over the pastor duties in 1994 when Stephens needed to devote more time to his business, Big John's Alabama Barbecue.
Stephen's niece, Arie Davis, stood at the door greeting congregation members, some of whom were original members. She said she was 6 years old when the church began.
"The best part of this is the people, the old people and new people," she said. "What I have been thinking lately is God loves all people."
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was among those attending the dedication.
"Prior to becoming mayor, he had been known visit us," Greene said. "We go way back to when he was a city councilman."