Fast-growing Baptist church finds new home

  • Previously the Athol-Orange Lodge of Elks, 92 New Athol Road will become the permanent home of a growing independent baptist church in the area. Staff Photo/David McLellan

Staff Writer
Published: 2/12/2019 2:03:35 PM

ORANGE — One year and one month — that’s all it took for a small Bible study to morph into a full-fledged church with 160 members and, soon, a permanent place to worship.

The Crossroads Church, an independent Baptist church based out of Pelham, N.H., has purchased 92 New Athol Road, the previous site of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge No. 1837, better known as the Athol-Orange Lodge of Elks, for $350,000.

According to the pastor Don LeBel, the purchase is a momentous move for a North Quabbin Crossroads Church community that has grown exponentially since beginning in Athol just one year ago. The goal is to have the move to Orange complete for Easter Sunday, the holiest day of the year in Christianity.

“We’re making a mark out here for the kingdom of God,” said LeBel, 68, who will lead the Orange church.

According to LeBel, the church brings something different to the area, with its modern, if unconventional, aspects, like streaming 500-person services from the church’s larger New Hampshire location on a big screen and playing contemporary Christian music.

But those methods have been a draw, LeBel said, as evidenced by the church’s history.

Three years ago, a student from the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School attended a service at the church’s main New Hampshire location. She was hopeful, LeBel said, that similar community could exist in the North Quabbin region.

LeBel, not yet ordained but active with the church’s ministry staff, began missionary work in the area every three months. He saw an area that was craving spirituality. Indeed, there are other churches in the area — like the Athol-Orange Baptist Church, which LeBel admires and described as a teammate, rather than competitor — but the church’s blend of scripture readings during engaging, even funny sometimes, services have been popular, LeBel said.

“Our church is a little different,” LeBel said. “But we have seen the need out here. We’re getting people to show up, and lives are being changed.”

On Dec. 6, 2017, five families LeBel had been worshipping with came together to rent space in an old brick building at 109 Lumber St., Athol. The new Crossroads Church drew more and more people, and now has about 160 members attending services regularly. With the new building, that growth can continue, LeBel said. The building will have a sanctuary for about 250 people, as well as rooms for children and student ministry services.

LeBel, originally from Salem, said he’s grown to learn about the economic hardships of the North Quabbin region, which he thinks contributes to the need to worship.

“We are very excited. We grew so fast, and we’re going to have a place to do more for the community,” LeBel said, adding that a unanimous vote in both the Athol and New Hampshire congregations approved the move to a permanent building. “I think what we’re doing is worthwhile. We’re seeing an area that for a long time has suffered from economic loss, loss of jobs, and if we can give these people a relationship with Christ, that’s what matters.”

LeBel said anyone is allowed to attend the current services in Athol on Sundays at 10:45 a.m. Service times may change — and the frequency of services may increase — after the move.

“We’re carrying out our mission, leading people to be fully committed followers of Jesus Christ,” LeBel said.

Reach David McLellan at or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.

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