Open Door Baptist becomes old Western town for unique Bible camp
By Melanie Tucker | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
On Sunday mornings, Open Door Baptist Church looks like most other Baptist churches — families line the wooden pews and pray as the pastor brings God’s word and musicians play.
But Saturday inside this country church a transformation has taken place. The pews are adorned with heirloom quilts, the stage is packed with old family photos, wash board, antique lanterns, rope and even a saddle. The sign above tells the story: All have now entered Salvation City.
Pastor Danny Ogle and his small congregation have been working for weeks to prepare for today’s Bible Day Camp, all centered around a Western theme and full of good fun. They have even built a jail at the rear of the sanctuary. The fellowship hall isn’t that anymore. It’s the mess hall. Outside, day campers will be able to test their skills aboard a barrel bronco.
Starting out small
This is a relatively new church, organized back in October 2010. Its first home was the garage of Angie and Jeff Fox. “We started out with probably 15 or 16 people,” said Pastor Danny Ogle. “We didn’t even have chairs. We used camping chairs.”
After staying there briefly, Open Door moved to the building that was once Hickory Corner Restaurant. It was winter time and the congregation nearly froze, the pastor said.
“We only had one heater and it was so loud we had to turn it off during preaching,” he explained.
The next home for Open Door was a double-wide trailer on East Lamar Alexander Parkway. After staying there a year, they made arrangements to take up residence in the former home of Centenary Baptist Church. Ogle and his congregation are leasing it from the Chilhowee Baptist Association with an option to buy.
This is where they’ve been now since January. A few months ago, Ogle and some others began trying to come up with a creative plan for Bible day camp for children and teens. Salvation City was born.
Adding to the mix
The church’s first altar is up on the stage, along with antiques and unique items to pull this theme together. “People just brought things in,” Ogle said. “Everyone has pulled together.”
Open Door is a growing church, its pastor pointed out. He said there have been four or five new families join since January. On one of their biggest Sundays, attendance was 86. Average attendance is between 35 and 50.
Angie Fox and her husband Jeff are two members who have worked really hard for this Bible day camp. Jeff Ogle, Henry Sisk and Jason Murphy have even starred in a western movie that Angie has filmed. It will be shown to campers Saturday. The movie features Murphy as Sheriff Justice, Fox as Deputy Do-Right, Sisk as Cactus Jack and Ogle as Sheriff Good News. It contains 40 minutes of high-speed antics (aboard stick horses) and the salvation message.
None of them had any acting experience, the pastor said. Goofiness just comes natural.
The jail at the back of the sanctuary certainly catches some attention. The weapon of choice here is the “Gospel Gun,” Ogle explained. There is a wanted poster cut-out where children can have their photos made. A puppet show has also been created to make this day-long event stick with these children long after the Western characters ride off into the sunset.
Ogle lives an hour away in Strawberry Plains. The church made him an apartment in the basement so he could stay all weekend. He and his congregation have found a home here, he said.
“We are really excited,” Ogle said. “We feel like this is our home. We are raising money to buy this building.”
The jail in the sanctuary will stay at least until August because they will be hosting a jail-a-thon to raise funds. There are also plans to hold a car show and silent auction in October.