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Murfreesboro Home To New Arabic Baptist Church

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Posted at 9:56 PM, Jun 12, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-09 02:15:18-04

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Murfreesboro is home to a growing Muslim population.

The local Islamic Center said they know of 300 families and 450 students. But one new Arabic house of worship is actually a church.

It’s called the Arabic Baptist Church. Before last month, it was the Scenic Drive Baptist Church. On May 3 Scenic Drive held its last service.

“It finally got to the point where you couldn't out run the expense anymore,” said Deacon Larry Montgomery.

Montgomery said his congregation, at one time at more than 200 members, was down to just 30 earlier this year. It’s something happening to churches across the nation as members age and a growing number of young people have said they don’t belong to a church.

That’s when Montgomery met Dr. Raouf Ghattas, an Egyptian-born Christian pastor with a congregation looking for a permanent home. They had been moving around temporary spaces for their services.

The remaining Scenic Drive members took a vote on whether to sell to the Arabic Church.

“It was surprising to be quite honest but there was not one dissenting voice in the entire congregation,” Montgomery said.

Thus began a new chapter for the church that was determined to keep the doors open.

Services are now in English and Arabic. And while it's a change to the culture, members said there's no change to the heart of what they do.

“What their contribution to here, I don't want to erase that, I want to respect that, I want to include them in,” said Dr. Ghattas.

Murfreesboro was catapulted to the national spotlight over angry protests at a proposed mosque that lasted two years. The Islamic Center received threats and graffiti on the plan site.

Now, Larry said he and his congregation are staying with the church for its new beginning, embracing the Arabic-American meld.

“Until the lord leads me away to do something different this is where I’ll be,” he said.

For those who don’t speak Arabic the church has ear pieces where Mrs. Ghattas, now fluent, will translate the sermons and prayers.

Ghattas said it's not your typical Baptist service. But then again there’s nothing typical about what they’re doing in the heart of Murfreesboro.

“It is different kind of approach we wanted to take to reach out to all nations,” Ghattas said.

And they hope this fresh approach to an ancient practice will change the community and maybe the world.

“That's what we’re supposed to do as Christians is embrace all folks,” Montgomery said.

Links to the Arabic Baptist Church and Islamic Center.