Cornerstone church marks 25 years of growth

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 31, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — Pastor Bill Godair arrived to a congregation of seven people when he moved to Salisbury in 1986.
Since then, Cornerstone Church has outgrown two buildings and is busting at the seams in the one it occupies now, with attendance reaching 1,000 people some Sundays.
“I came here to build a church, but I never dreamed it would grow this much,” Godair said.
The church celebrated its 25th anniversary Sunday by looking to the future.
“The best is yet to come,” Godair said.
What’s next?
The church purchased nearly 46 acres of land along Interstate 85 at N.C. 152 and U.S. 29 in China Grove earlier this year for $1.5 million.
It is planning to build a new 60,000-square-foot event center, which will be about four times larger than the existing facility on Webb Road in Salisbury. The building will hold 1,500 people, more than double the current capacity.
An amphitheatre is also in the works. Godair said it will have about 500 seats for outside concerts and events.
With those projects taking up only a portion of the land, Godair is hoping to develop the rest of it.
“That 46 acres is very valuable to the town of China Grove, and also to Rowan County,” Godair said. “Never, ever would we want to take that and make it all nonprofit, where the city or county cannot get tax revenue.”
Godair envisions adding a gas station, hotel, restaurants and retail space to the property. But he doesn’t want the church to operate them.
“We’re not interested in running restaurants and hotels. That would be totally impossible,” he said. “Our whole deal is that we would like to help develop this (area) and we are looking for partnerships.”
Godair said about 400 jobs could be created on the site if things go as planned.
And the businesses will benefit from the traffic the church brings in on a daily basis, Godair said.
“We are average 400 people on Wednesday nights, and during the week there is something going on here all the time,” he said.
Godair said he’s hoping that when the economy picks back up the church will be able to sell portions of the land.
That money will be used toward the building costs of the event center and amphitheatre.
Although Godair said he’s never seen another church work to create a development of this magnitude before. He believes it’s the right move.
“It’s a big vision, but we serve a big God,” he said. “Why would he give us the land that was valued at over $4.5 million for $1.5 million if he didn’t want us to do something with it.”
The growth spurt
Church member Judy Beaver said she still remembers what it was like when she started attending Cornerstone more than 23 years ago, when it was located on 12th Street.
Back then, she knew everyone in the congregation. These days, she meets new people every Sunday.
“It’s wonderful,” she said.
Beaver said the church’s growth is astonishing, but she’s not surprised.
“Pastor always had a vision for it to be for all races and for all of Rowan County,” she said.
As the church looks to the future, Beaver said she’s excited about the move to China Grove.
“I think the plans are just another way to reach out to people,” she said.
Crystal Corriher, a member of Cornerstone’s board of directors, said despite the size of the church, there is still a tight-knit feeling because of the church’s use of small groups.
But Corriher said she enjoys attending a large church and she’s looking forward to the expansion.
“The bigger the entity the great the resources to be able to impact people’s lives for the better,” she said.
Seeking diversity
Godair said the church has continued to grow throughout the years because people are ready for change, especially when it comes to diversity.
“I just think people understand that everybody is created equal and it’s really a disgrace that 11 o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week,” he said.
But Godair said the church isn’t just diverse in races, it also draws people from 25 different denominations.
Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz touted the church for having the “most diverse congregation in Rowan County,” during Sunday’s 25th anniversary service.
“You live and breathe it,” she said.
Kluttz also presented Godair with a proclamation of appreciation for his work in the community.
“He has helped us become a community which celebrates our diversity,” she said.
Kluttz told church members about her quest to improve race relations when she ran for city council in 1997. After being elected, she said Godair was one of the first people who came to see how he could help.
“And he has helped every step of the way,” Kluttz said.
Kluttz said Godair has worked particularly hard to reach the Hispanic community, creating the Spanish newspaper “El Latino, and creating a choir for Spanish speakers.
He has also worked to teach local students about the danger of gangs and rallied his church members to be servants in the community.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.