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Waiting to Reopen

After nine years, Shiloh Baptist Church should open in January.

After nine long years, Shiloh Baptist Church will soon be home again.

Construction began on the church in May, said Curt Nette, vice president of construction with Jack Bays Inc., the company hired by Shiloh Baptist Church for the renovation.

"We're putting on an addition for a new fellowship hall, kitchen, religious instruction classrooms and expanding the sanctuary," Nette said.

Rev. Dr. Carson E. Wise, pastor at Shiloh, said he and his congregation are ready to move back home.

"We had some problems getting the project started, but we're hoping to be back in in January," Wise said. "We've been gone for a long time but the ultimate goal has always been for the church to return and pick up our activities. We want to be more accessible to the community," he said.

Since the church closed in 1996, services have been held at the Langley School on Balls Hill Road in McLean, Wise said. The church, originally built in 1873, has been reconstructed twice after being destroyed by fire on two occasions.

"When I arrived in 1991, we pushed our way around to get the $1 million for this project started," he said. "There are people in our congregation who have never been in our building, probably about a third of our members."

The faithful are beginning to stop by the church and see "what's going on," Nette said. "They stop by on occasion to see how things are going. They're eager to get back," he said.

Most of the repairs to the church will be to bring the building up to safety codes, Nette said. "It was looking like a losing battle for the building for a while, trying to do the maintenance while keeping the historic character of the church, but the outward appearance will stay the same," he said.

New fire alarms, electrical wiring, water and sewer systems will be installed or upgraded to ensure the safety of the building, he said.

When the church reopens, Wise hopes to expand on the services the church provides to the community, especially those members who are between the ages of 20 and 55. "We want to provide care for the elderly as well as those with children," he said. "The community around us will benefit from that too."

He also hopes to eventually provide job training and employment programs through the church. "We want to take care of the whole person," Wise said. "The church is usually looked at as a place to focus on the spiritual standpoint of a person's life but we want to save some bodies too. Hopefully we'll be open seven days a week."