Coram Deo Classical School was founded in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, in May of 2015 as a ministry of Second Baptist Church, where classes currently meet. The school opened its doors to nineteen Jr. K-3rd grade students in August of 2016. Now in its third year, and with an enrollment of fifty-two, the school has outgrown its facility.
Coram Deo’s board discussed early on what it might have to do if it outgrew the church’s facility. The initial consensus was to build on its current property, or purchase an existing off-campus facility. The board decided to research the building option while also searching for an existing facility to purchase.
While the first group was busy talking with engineers and contractors, the second group found an existing facility owned by First Baptist Church that turned out to be a perfect fit. The facility was a 17,000-square-foot church building sitting on eight acres of prime real estate. The committee researched the property and found it to be more than adequate to meet the existing and future classroom needs of Coram Deo. A motion was presented at the school board’s next meeting. Much discussion ensued, a vote was taken, and the motion failed—by one vote.
When the news about the failed vote reached the members of First Baptist Church they moved forward in talks with other interested parties. After another failed attempt by the board to come to an agreement on the First Baptist property, the chairman of the board at Coram Deo received a call from the pastor of First Baptist Church, who asked if the school was still interested in the facility.
“Yes,” the chairman said, “but we are in no position to make another offer.”
“Would you be interested in the property if we gave it to you?” the pastor asked.
As it turned out, while Coram Deo was looking at more affordable options, God—and Birdie Ham, the oldest member of First Baptist Church—had their own plans.
“We just marvelled at the providence of God in this,” said Board Chairman Josh Polk. “A motion to purchase the facilities that failed by one vote led to a gift well over and above what we could have purchased.”
Mrs. Ham took a particular interest in Coram Deo’s proposal to purchase the facility. Mrs. Ham is an elderly former school teacher who was very attracted to the idea of the church building she loved being used as a Christian school. On her 102nd birthday, First Baptist Church gave Mrs. Ham a birthday party. At the party she told the church that her dying wish was for the membership of FBC to agree to donate the building and the acreage to Coram Deo. In addition to that, she revealed that she was going to donate her house to Coram Deo as well.
Starting and maintaining classical Christian schools is a great work to pursue, but it is filled with challenges. “We saw once again,” said Mr. Polk, “that while we were struggling with this, God had already worked it out.”
Coram Deo Classical School plans to move into its new building this coming school year or the next.
This article is from the spring issue of Exordium, the newsletter of the Classical Latin School Association.