Members and friends of Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church turn the soil during a groundbreaking celebration May 22 at the historic church at 382 Squire Pope Road. LYNNE COPE HUMMELL

Ceremonial shovels topped with white hard hats stood mostly in a row, dug slightly into the dirt mound in a lot next to Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church on a recent Saturday morning. In front of the row, one shovel stood apart.

That shovel, Rev. Deonia Simmons said in his opening remarks, was there to honor Rev. Ben Williams, pastor of the church from 1975 until his passing in 2016. It was Williams who fostered the dream to someday build a new sanctuary on the church’s land on Squire Pope Road.

After the program, Carolyn Grant, a longtime church member, pointed out a wooden sign nearby, obviously weather worn and a bit bedraggled, on the edge of the groundbreaking site. “That sign has been standing there since the mid-90s,” she said.

That was when the congregation, led by Williams, began planning and looking forward to the day when their new sanctuary would be built.

That time is drawing near.

Simmons said planning in earnest had begun about two years ago. “We had a planning meeting and design meeting to gauge our costs,” he said. Tom Parker, principal of Tom Parker Design, Architects, designed the new building.

Construction will begin with a parking lot, Simmons said, and that could happen very soon. The sanctuary itself will be started as soon as materials become available.

“Due to COVID, our original construction plan is going to be longer than we planned,” he said. “A number of supplies and materials that were once easy to get are now on back order. What we thought would be an 8 or 9 month project might turn out to be a year.”

The new building will include a sanctuary, administrative offices, a choir room and meeting rooms. The sanctuary will provide seating for about 300 parishioners and 44 choir members.

The current sanctuary seats about 135 comfortably, Simmons said. Following completion of the new building, he said, “We plan to convert (this one) into the Ben Williams Fellowship Hall.”

“This project has been a long time coming. We are excited and grateful to be part of what God is doing at Mount Calvary,” Simmons said. “I’m grateful that Rev. Ben brought me in and allowed me to be his assistant.”