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The White Rock Baptist Church has always been a little different. “We hold to the central tenets of the Christian faith,” Rev. Chuck McCullough said, “but we have never been real traditional ‘Baptist.’ We have been on this spot, in this town, since 1969, for reasons that transcend denomination and tradition.”
Forty years later this church that resists the typical cookie cutter image is still going strong.
This consistent, long-term presence calls for a celebration.
To celebrate its 40th anniversary, the White Rock Baptist Church is hosting a party for the entire community on Oct. 3. From 1-4 p.m. there will be in the parking lot three giant bounce houses, a dunk tank, children’s games, face painting, cotton candy and other food vendors, numerous booths, police cars and fire trucks.
A barbecue dinner will be served from 4-6 p.m. Donations to cover the cost of dinner will be accepted. A talent show, silent auction and desserts from 6-8 p.m. will conclude the event.
The church’s unique character is just one of the factors that set it apart from the others in the area. For one thing, it was the first permanent church in White Rock. McCullough explained that when White Rock was a camp for construction workers, the make-shift community included a small church. When the camp was later torn down, everything, including the church, went away. Later, when White Rock was rebuilt, WRBC, begun as a mission of First Baptist Church in Los Alamos, met in Piñon Elementary School. It was the first in White Rock to acquire land and a Los Alamos National Bank loan to begin construction.
Since then, the church has gone through several expansion phases. The first cinder block building was completed in 1971. A second phase, including sanctuary and classroom space, was built in 1978. The newest addition was dedicated in 1999. A substantial parking lot expansion was finished this summer.
“We’re blessed to be right on the highway, visible and accessible,” McCullough said. “Our location and building have allowed us the opportunity to be connected to the community at large.” Beyond serving as a hub for its own activities and programs, the church facility offers a place for various meetings and events. “Many community groups use our building regularly,” McCullough said, “as many as 60 groups a year.”
Perhaps what makes the church most unique is the people who make it up. “I think the very uniqueness of Los Alamos makes for a unique church. The kind of people drawn to Los Alamos brings a certain flavor and understanding to the church. They are smart, inquisitive and opinionated. They are questioning and seeking and willing to explore new ideas.”
“The church is the people who worship, serve and work together; who are bound together by deep faith and common goals. We believe that it is God who is at work in individual lives as well as in the corporate body. We average about 250 people attending Sunday services today, yet over the years a lot of people have been touched through this church’s life,” McCullough said.
The challenge in this church, and really every church, McCullough said, “is to be responsive to people where they are, to maintain a vital presence in the community and to continue to hold to the core principles of Christian faith. That is what makes ‘doing church’ hard work, usually interesting and often even fun.”
He added, “I find it gratifying that this church has been very resilient through the years. We have continued to do what we do through all the ups and downs of the laboratory and other challenges we and the community have faced. We like to say we have survived “flood (when the main sewer line that runs in front of the church backed up and flooded the building), fire (Cerro Grande) and pestilence (beetles killing all the pine trees).”
The life and vitality of this church, McCullough said, are due to two things: “God has had a hand in it all: He has a purpose and a plan here. Secondarily, He has brought together some of the best of His people in the world, people with great hearts and a willingness to work hard. We really haven’t changed that much over these 40 years. Far from perfection, we continue to focus on the important things: genuine worship, Bible education, raising our children in the faith, reaching as far as we can with the good news of salvation in Christ, and being an asset to our community.”
When all the neighbors come to the party on Oct. 3, McCullough hopes they will see the church in its true light. “I hope people will see beyond common stereotypes of denominational labels and self-absorbed ‘organized religion’ and understand that this church is simply a group of people sharing a journey of faith, seeking to know God and to share what they are discovering with others.”