Hayden Le Pore contributed to this story–
Pioneer Baptist Church currently meets inside one of the oldest buildings in Citrus Heights, a nearly 100-year-old church on Old Auburn Road. But with recent growth in the congregation, plans are in the works to construct a new 30,000-square-feet church building on a currently vacant 3-acre plot of land on Auburn Boulevard, across from Rusch Park.
The current church building is located at 7600 Old Auburn Rd. and is designated as one of the city’s six historical landmarks, due to it being the first church ever built in the Citrus Heights area, in 1921. The building was later sold to Pioneer Baptist Church in 1975, where the congregation’s current pastor, Kyle Conley, took the helm in 2009.
Conley said the congregation only had 25 members when he began pastoring there, but the church has now grown to about 250 members. Because of that growth, Conley said the church has outgrown the historic 7,000-square-foot church building, leading to the need for a new location and bigger facility.
The new location, at 7828 Auburn Blvd., has already been purchased and a sign behind a fence indicates the site will be the future home of the church. Alpacas owned by the neighbors can also often be seen browsing on land.
Conley said his church is committed to Citrus Heights and wants to stay in the neighborhood because many of its members live nearby. The new property is one of the few open pieces of land in Citrus Heights that could fit what the church was looking for, so they snatched up the land in what was described on the church’s Facebook page as a “miracle story.”
The church is planning on starting construction on the new building in 2020, with a goal to finish it the same year.
“It’ll be very similar to the old building, but on a bigger scale,” said Conley, describing the design as “mission-style” with a tall steeple. He also said the building will be about four times the size of the current facility, with a 30,000-square-feet floor plan, at least 500 seats, and room for a commercial kitchen, fellowship hall, and multiple classrooms.
“It’s going to be beautiful, there isn’t gonna be anything like it,” the pastor said in an interview, noting he’d like the building to be a venue for community use beyond church functions.
Asked about costs involved in the building project, Conley said financials are yet to be finalized, but the church plans to raise the money needed and begin the project with a goal to do so debt-free.
The church also hopes to keep the current historic building on Old Auburn Road for hosting weddings and community events. But if they aren’t able to keep the building, they plan to sell it to another church so the historic building won’t be torn down.
The original building on Old Auburn Road was built by the Friends Church, a local congregation started by a Quaker family from Oklahoma, Walter and Gertrude Leonard, with their eight children. According to a historical brochure on the city’s website, the Leonard’s moved to Citrus Heights in 1914 and had an idea to establish a congregation for fellow Quakers to gather in the community.
He attracted four other families to Citrus Heights which made up the initial congregation. They began meeting at the Sylvan School house and officially became the Friends Church of Citrus Heights in 1917.
Two years later, the church purchased land on Old Auburn Road so they could build their new church building, and finally in 1921, the church was dedicated and opened for service. The location has continued to operate as a church for nearly a century, although changing congregations at least once.