DUQUESNE, Mo. — Though the red brick building at 1301 S. Duquesne Road has been the home of Celebration Church for nearly a year now, there are still plenty of reminders of the building’s former role in the community.
Dotting the red brick wall in front are signs that read: “No parking on school days.” At 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. daily, a bell still rings loudly throughout the building. Celebration Church Pastor Brandon Dorris now writes his sermons inside the old principal’s office. And visible on a nearby wall is a Duquesne School plaque that dates back to 1938. Down in the basement, the former school’s computer lab and library has been transformed into youth and college youth areas. The cafeteria has become the church’s worship center, while the south portion of the school has been turned into the children’s area.
The building’s come a long way, Dorris will admit. It’s certainly a far cry from what the structure looked like just two years ago, when the school building — shut down in 2012 — was used to store materials for the district’s Operation Fairy Godmother program, which helps high school students attend their proms.
“We have a lot of people who want to go through the building and say, ‘We like to see what you’ve done with it,’” Dorris said, adding they are pleased with what the church, which is affiliated through the Missouri Baptist Convention, has done to the former elementary school building that at one time served 174 students in grades K-5. “I knew people would be grateful” that it has been preserved, particularly when the much-beloved school sign — shaped like a red school building with a covered bell on top — was donated by the church to Duquesne city officials.
But the renovation work certainly wasn’t easy.
“It was pretty rough,” Dorris admitted.
After purchasing the building for $76,500, they have replaced the flooring, the plaster lining the hallways, installed a new roof and put up a modern, blue-colored sign out front. And they are slowly fixing the “reminders” from the building’s old school days, such as swapping out the “kid-sized” toilets found in the building for adult-sized ones. In all, they have spent $200,000 in renovations.
The church was established three years ago in Carl Junction, meeting in “a little building near Briarbrook” that quickly became too small for their congregation. They leased a building for two years across the street from Crossroads Chevrolet on 32nd Street before purchasing the empty school building last summer from the Joplin School District. They moved into the building permanently last October.
“We love the location,” Dorris said. “It’s close to Joplin but we feel like we’re a part of a small community at the same time, so we can make a difference.”
Community is the key word here. Big churches, mega churches, have their place in a community such as Joplin, but so do smaller, neighborhood churches. Dorris wants Celebration Church to be the latter.
“We really want to be a place for relationships in a community with family, and we want to have great ministry but we want to do because we have great ministry,” he said. “We don’t want to be an attraction, where people come because they are seeking or attracted to something.
“We’re going to do this together,” he continued. “That’s the way I feel like we ought to be. And that builds trust. You’re walking through the fire together.”
The church, which has a congregation of 300, holds a Sunday worship service at 10 a.m. on Sundays.
“This is home,” Dorris said. “We are here to stay.”