Bible Baptist Church in Tooele City has just received some new changes to its church building. But what hasn’t changed is the love and warmth felt from the congregation and the two pastors who serve them and visitors.
“We put our sweat and blood into this,” said church member Daniel Anderson. Recent updates include painting, flooring, new walls and decorations.
Anderson, 36, of Tooele, has been attending Bible Baptist Church since it opened in January 1998.
The church, located at 286 N. Seventh Street in Tooele, is white with a spire and a cross on top of the front. The front steps are concrete and lead to a sturdy wooden door. Both pastors, Richard Benson and Victor Sanchez, and the congregants are eager to shake the hands of visitors and congregants who enter.
Though both the exterior and interior of the building have been improved, it’s the members and visitors who worship inside that make the church so wonderful, Anderson said.
“The people become like family,” said Hope Garcia of Tooele. The 78 year old has been attending the church for eight years.
In the front of the church, passersby will notice a large, red wooden cross on the ground before the steps that lead up to the front door. In the spring, the cross is surrounded by a sweep of yellow daffodils. A new sign stands along the small incline of grass, posting worship times, days, and phone numbers for Sanchez and Benson.
“I love the people. They’re very welcoming,” said Tiffany Long, 41, of Magna, who has been to the church only a couple of times. Long said she started going because of family who attend, and she continues to come because of how warm and friendly people are toward everyone.
In addition to warm people, the members work hard to keep the inside tidy. In fact, the building hasn’t aged much in 20 years. The red rug down the center aisle is bright and clean. Chairs line either side.
Nine windows with clean, bright red and white curtains flank the panes where sunlight streams into the chapel. The white wall and ceiling add to the chapel’s airy nature.
In addition, there are other facilities in the building that are conducive to gathering.
“We have a kitchen to share our potlucks,” Garcia added with a smile.
The congregants made use of the kitchen and gathering areas with a family activity on Feb. 11. Members prepared food and after the sermon, the congregation and guests gathered to eat downstairs, where the extra classrooms, kitchen and dining area are located. The English congregation, which is led by Benson, celebrated while the Spanish congregation, which is led by Sanchez, came in and began their own service.
For the event, Benson, 52, of Kearns, had encouraged his members in a friendly competition. He asked them to gather as many friends as they could to their service to participate. It was the youth against adults.
Two youth won, receiving $25 gift cards. An adult member also won and would receive her gift card later, the pastor said.
Benson has led the church for six months. He said he remembers some of the previous pastors, but now he is the permanent pastor in Tooele.
Benson’s sermons are lively. Otherwise he is reserved, especially in a one-on-one situation. He does, however, take charge, as he hurries about the building to talk to everyone, making sure everything is set and ready for the service.
He is quick to smile with every person he greets.
Prior to this building, for two previous decades, the congregation’s members held services in non-traditional locations for two decades. Before purchasing the church in 1998, members met in a recreation center and also met for a time in Tooele’s Best Western Inn, according to Benson.
“A lot of people helped,” he said, referring to the renovation and getting the building ready for the February unveiling.
Everyone lent a hand, even Benson’s sons, Zachary, 25, and Levi, 23. Zachary played the piano for the service, while Levi led the music on Feb. 11. Later in the service, the two performed a song they had written, with a guitar accompaniment while they both sang.
Benson and his wife of 28 years, Cindy Benson, have two other children — daughters Brittany, 29 and Lysine, 27.
Along with Benson’s family, other guests from throughout Utah came to participate in the family activity. Among them was a longtime friend of the pastor, Sylvanister Davis, 53, from West Valley City.
“It’s home, very welcoming, very friendly,” Davis said of the building. “It’s really nice and presentable. Very well taken care of.”
The church focuses its teachings on the Bible, Benson said. For the event on Feb. 11, he preached about 2 Peter 3.
The church’s walls also reflect a Biblical focus, with pictures representing Bible stories. In addition, the building is adorned with American flags and crosses.
The décor is neither flashy nor overbearing, but tasteful. It is welcoming, with colors and decorations that add to the overall warmth. The wood floors are a rich gold while the chairs are cushioned and darker brown. The rug along the floor is darker red than the curtains.
At the church’s entrance, the verse John 14:6, hangs over the door, greeting both visitor and congregant. The verse is helpful for focusing the reader on the purpose on the building. The verse states: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
The congregation’s concentration is on the teachings of Jesus Christ and focuses on the Bible to inform them more about their Savior and their way to salvation.
Benson welcomes the entire community to listen to his sermons of Jesus Christ and to hear of the love Christ has for everyone. The congregation has Bible study classes on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. and Sundays at 10 a.m. before regular Sunday services at 11 a.m. The church’s next big event, which Benson said he hopes will be well attended, is the Easter celebration on Sunday, April 1, at 11 a.m.
For Sanchez and Spanish-speaking congregants, worship is on Sundays at 1 p.m. with Bible study at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays.
Sanchez described his Spanish congregation in English. “It’s good, with nice people,” he said.
Sanchez, 51, is also a resident of Kearns with his wife, Rosa, and the two have four children: Mayra, 25, Vicki, 22, Hugo, 18 and Victor Junior, 15. At the end of March, Sanchez hopes he and his congregation can plan their own 20-year anniversary. They will have been in the same building for 20 years on Sept. 19, and they hope to celebrate on a weekend around that date, he said.
The overall congregation at the church is excited about the new renovations. Additionally, the congregation looks forward to sharing their church for many years to come with visitors who are interested in joining them for worship.
“All are welcome,” Benson said.
Davis added, “[It’s a] lighthouse in Tooele. Really a blessing.”