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Chillicothe Times-Bulletin - Chillicothe, IL
  • New church being prepared in Chillicothe

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  • Robert "Bob" Ohlmann does a lot of walking around his neighborhood on Santa Fe Avenue, which led to his newest adventure, buying the former building of First Baptist Church.
    He walked by the building, located at 622 W. Pine St., three times and saw it was for sale.
    "I thought it wouldn't hurt to ask them how much they want for it," recalled Ohlmann.
    He ended up making a bid a lot lower than the selling price, he said, but they accepted.
    Residents may wonder at age 85, why would Ohlmann want to buy a church and be the pastor?
    He said there were a couple reasons why he felt the need to make an offer.
    It is a "beautiful building," he said, built in 1907. It is 4,250 square feet on the main level and features stained glass. There also is a large basement, which used to house the Chillicothe Historical Society before its members moved to the Fourth Street Museum. There also is an unfinished upstairs. With such a large building, Ohlmann said he felt sorry for the remaining women of First Baptist who were trying to keep up the building.
    Living only a block away from the church, Ohlmann said he knew people around his neighborhood and in Chillicothe who are not attending church. Some used to be part of one church or another but have stopped going.
    Ohlmann said he felt the need of a different church that is independent and fundamental.
    Then he looked at what he had been doing, especially after his wife, Lillian, died in April 2010.
    "I was sitting around the house with nothing to do but clean. I've got to be doing something," he said.
    Now he and his family are working on getting the building ready for an opening service Dec. 9.
    "I suppose you would call it a step of faith," said Ohlmann.
    To help with utility bills, he already had a company insulate the building.
    He and his family have been working on the inside, cleaning and moving around items left. Many items remained from the former church, such as song books, Bibles, choir robes and more, which will help him start the new church, to be called Faith Baptist Church.
    His daughter, Trudy Spencer, said she thought she had retired, along with her husband, Carl, but they are helping him in the endeavor. Two of Trudy Spencer's cousins are helping with projects, including fixing cushions to fit the pews. Carl Spencer is serving as the secretary/treasurer for the church.
    Ohlmann closed on the building Nov. 14.
    "We've been working ever since," Ohlmann said. "They've been working me to death," he joked.
    "I think it's the other way around," Trudy Spencer said with a chuckle.
    Page 2 of 2 - Ohlmann, who was born in Chillicothe, said the Lord took over his life after he was saved in 1957 at Calvary Baptist Church when it was located on Fourth Street.
    Ten years later, he went to Pillsbury Baptist Bible College when he felt convicted to be a preacher and influence people's eternal destiny.
    "If you don't have that determined, then you're going to end up someplace you don't want to be — that's hell," the preacher said. "The Bible only teaches about two places — heaven and hell. If you care about people, you don't want to see them go to hell."
    Ohlmann is no stranger to starting a church, as he did so in Virginia, Ill., in 1982 with the same name, Faith Baptist Church.
    The first church he pastored, though, was in Pilot Mound, Iowa, followed by churches in Hinckley and Cannon Falls, Minn.
    After staying in Virginia for eight years, he headed to a church in southern Nebraska before returning to Central Illinois in the late 1980s to be superintendent of the school at Averyville Baptist Church in East Peoria.
    Faith Baptist Church's official opening is from 2 to 4 p.m. Dec. 9 at the church. An hour service and an hour of fellowship are planned, with time to look around the building. David Coyle, the pastor of Averyville Baptist Church in East Peoria, is the special speaker.
    The regular service time will be 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Sundays and 6:30 p.m. Thursdays. As things move along, Ohlmann said he hopes to have a Sunday evening service and Sunday School eventually.
    His goal in the future is to get the church going, gather a congregation and then pass the church on to another pastor.
    "We preach the gospel, fundamental truth. We want people to get saved. That's the most important step in a person's life is their eternity," said Ohlmann.
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