When the Alleluia Community was first formed, most of its members lived in various sections of suburban west Augusta. While on a retreat in November 1972, the Lord told founders that He wanted them to live together. This was a tall order. But, they began searching for a place where their families could reside in close proximity to one another.
One of the first places investigated was an old, unused Franciscan convent in downtown Augusta. In order to utilize this building, it would have been necessary to break up family groups, assigning the 13 children all to sleep in cells or cubicles in the same wing. After several weeks of discussion and consideration, a deposit of $400 with an offer to buy was forwarded to Rome, Italy. The Franciscan Order rejected the offer. Shortly thereafter, the founders discovered a vacant apartment house in a section of Augusta now called Olde Town. As the name implies, most of the structures were built at the turn of the century or earlier, and the buildings required a sizable investment just to make them livable. For instance, the building in which they were interested required more than $40,000 in renovations.
Undaunted, they arranged a meeting with the owner, a major developer in Augusta, to explain that they could not afford the renovations if they purchased the structure. After listening to their need to find a place where they could live together, he suggested that they drive to a duplex development that he owned in south Augusta. Although it was already dark, around 9:00 PM, Dennis McBride, Dale Clark, Kevin Murrell, Bill Beatty and Gil O’Brien got into the owner’s car and proceeded to south Augusta.
In order to understand the full significance of that trip, the reader should know that approximately one year earlier Bill Beatty, while praying, had received a vision. In the vision, he saw long buildings that seemed to surround an open area of high grass. Off in the distance he saw a cross that appeared to glow or that was somehow illuminated. Bill shared with his friends that he sensed the Lord was showing him that his vision was representative of the place where they would come together to live. Although they hadn’t forgotten Bill’s vision, previous experiences certainly seemed to indicate that they had confused its meaning. That is, until that night.
It was fairly late when they arrived at the duplex development. The owner entered one of the driveways and drove them through a field, which at one time, had been a pecan grove. The rear of the duplexes, long low structures with an apartment on each side, circled the field. When the car stopped in front of one of the buildings, the men emerged to get a better idea of their surroundings. One of the men turned toward the south and pointed. In the distance, they could see a large, white cross located on a high hill near St. Helena’s convent. Spotlights illuminated it. The Alleluia Community had found it’s home.
Initially, 18 buildings consisting of 36 apartments were purchased at a cost of $365,000. Today, Alleluia and its members own more than 75 buildings in Faith Village area. In most situations, interior walls have been moved so that the same family can occupy both sides of the building. Also, the exteriors have been renovated, changing the original appearance but never quite eradicating it.
Faith Village, or simply, “the Village,” as Alleluia members call it, has always been and still is a very instrumental tool in building community. For the first several years, people wishing to join the community were required to move into the Village to become members. Occupants have found that being surrounded by community brothers and sisters does much to teach people to love, serve and correct one another. Through the years, visitors have frequently testified that they “sense God’s presence – that Village property is holy ground”. If sacrifice and following God’s call, no matter the cost, can help sanctify a place, then truly Faith Village is holy ground. It was originally procured through great sacrifice — the founders sold their comfortable, attractive homes in the suburbs, withdrew all their savings and combined the revenue to use as a down payment on the purchase.
The growth of Faith Village can be attributed to people from all over the United States who left good paying jobs and security to answer God’s call. Many years ago, those privileged to live in Faith Village learned a great truth. That truth was once reflected in a teaching in which the speaker had intended to state, “Community has built Faith Village.” Inadvertently he said, “Faith Village has built community”. Village residents, in reply to the latter statement,. would say, “Amen brother. Amen.”