St. Mary's purchases nearby Highlawn Baptist Church building - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

St. Mary's purchases nearby Highlawn Baptist Church building

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By JAMES E. CASTO
For The State Journal

St. Mary's Medical Center has purchased the former Highlawn Baptist Church, located at 2788 Collis Ave., near St. Mary's campus. 

The hospital submitted a successful bid of $600,000 for the massive, three-story brick building when it was offered for sale at a public auction. 

The congregation worshipped in the building for a final time Nov. 26.

The Rev. Ricky Ray, Highlawn's pastor, said the structure was put up for sale when it became apparent the church's 100 or so members could no longer afford to maintain a facility that was built to accommodate more than 1,000 parishioners. Ray said the church had been spending nearly 70 percent of its annual budget on maintenance and utilities for the building. 

In addition to its large sanctuary, the building has more than 100 classrooms and offices, four kitchens and 19 restrooms, with a large parking area. The sale also includes two residences. 

Doug Korstanje, director of marketing and community relations at St. Mary's, said the hospital has made no decision on how it will use the property. "Obviously, there are a lot of potential uses for the facility," Korstanje said. "Whatever we decide, it will be done in close community with the neighborhood." 

Highlawn Baptist's members will temporarily meet at the Freedom Biker Church, which is located at 533 Rear 3rd Ave., while a search is conducted for a new permanent location. 

Highlawn Baptist had been in its Collis Avenue building since 1948. There's an obvious sadness to leaving it, Ray said, but he's "excited about the future, and we have great, wonderful plans for the ministry."