Church to break ground for new worship center

BY JOYCE BLAY Staff Writer

Staff Writer

JACKSON — Faith helped build the Jackson Baptist Church on Bennetts Mill Road, but devotion will provide the funding for its $1.5 million worship facility.

“The original church was dedicated in 1976,” said Karen Deikun, the church secretary. “No contractor was hired to build it. Instead, parishioners built it themselves. One was a carpenter.”

Ken Greico, the carpenter who helped the small congregation construct its church, may have been heaven sent, but his enlistment was achieved through persistence rather than divine intervention, Deikun said.

She said a group of about 34 people first met in a house in Jackson in 1971. The Conservative Baptist Church organization in Wheaton, Ill., sent Ken Kirby to lead the congregation. Deikun said Kirby sought to increase his flock by asking a local fraternity of students attending Ocean County College in Toms River if they wanted to come to church. The results of his initial contact were less than encouraging, she said.

“They threw him out,” Deikun said. “They were into parties and weren’t into religion or church. But he was not discouraged and kept after them. He told them they needed Jesus. Eventually, quite a few of them [agreed to come to church].”

One of the fraternity boys was Greico, who is now a church elder. He eventually married the sister of Kirby’s wife. Greico’s skill as a carpenter helped the congregation build a home for its faithful at a minimal cost, said Deikun.

“There was a small mortgage for $49,000 at 8 percent [interest],” she said. “People wondered back then how they would pay it [off] since it was a lot of money in those days. But they paid it off early, in fact.”

With the completion of a church in which they could worship, Jackson’s family of Baptist parishioners grew. As a result of the congregation’s growth, two Sunday services are held every week to accommodate the more than 300 faithful that attend them, said Deikun. She said that is the reason the church applied to the township for permission to add on a new worship facility.

The Planning Board heard the church’s application in December 2002 and approved a resolution memorializing the project in May 2003. Phase I would increase the church parking lot to 150 spaces that would accommodate as many as 450 parishioners. A 24-foot driveway will also be added to church grounds. Phase II, which is construction of the worship facility, will take about one year after completion of Phase I, said Deikun. Plans for the project have been in development since 1998.

Deikun invited the public to attend the single Sunday service that will be offered once the new worship facility is complete.

“We have an interesting multicultural congregation,” she said. “It’s very warm, friendly [and] casual. People will come dressed for services in jeans or a suit and they are all welcome. Our motto is becoming Christ’s disciples together, and we mean it.”

Groundbreaking for the 7,200-square-foot worship facility will be held on Oct. 24 at 4:30 p.m. Coffee and cake will be served after a brief ceremony. For further information, contact the church at (732) 928-0080.