Gaston Christian School (GCS) in Gastonia honored M.O. Owens Jr. in a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new 26,000-square-foot facility Nov. 8.
The Dr. M.O. Owens Worship and Fine Arts Center bears the name of a North Carolina Baptist preacher who recently celebrated his 105th birthday and is the founding visionary of the school. Owens, his three daughters and other family members were present for the event.
The center gives Gaston County’s largest private school a 520-seat auditorium, art classrooms, band and choral classrooms, a dance studio, wood shop and costuming classroom. GCS has 920 students enrolled.
The state-of-the art fine arts building was part of the original plan, according to headmaster Marc Stout, but in 2012 the school board voted to move ahead with construction.
It was originally “much more vanilla” according to Stout, but the M.O. Owens name boosted donor support and allowed significant improvements.
“While this new addition to our campus will greatly benefit our growing student body, we are also very excited to make this available to our community for use as well,” said Stout.
Many community organizations have already scheduled to use the facility.
The students and faculty of the elementary school, middle school and high school stood at attention near the front of the new facility as local leaders were introduced at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
A life-size bronze statue of Owens was unveiled on the building’s front porch.
BR photo by K. Allan Blume
M.O. Owens, 105, stands next to a statue in his honor at the Owens Worship & Fine Arts Center at Gaston Christian School.
According to Stout, Owens’ body was electronically scanned and the data was delivered to China where the statue was built.
Widely known among Southern Baptists as a leader in the Conservative Resurgence and a long-time pastor, Milum Oswell (M.O.) Owens Jr. was born in New Holland, S.C., in 1913.
After earning a degree from Furman University, he graduated with honors from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., in 1939. He pastored churches in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Palmetto, Fla., Marion, N.C., and Lenoir, N.C., before accepting the call to East Baptist Church in Gastonia.
Owens led the church to established Parkwood Baptist in 1964 and was the first pastor until his retirement in 1980. He has since ministered in 15 churches as an interim pastor.
Twice president of the N.C. Baptist Pastors’ Conference, Owens was elected to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s General Board and a number of committees.
He served as a trustee of the Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources) and the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board).
GCS originally met on the campuses of Parkwood Baptist Church and Catawba Heights Baptist Church before the current property was purchased and the school constructed in 2002.
Timothy Roberts, chairman of the GCS board of trustees, read the inscription on a plaque mounted at the building’s entrance:
“In 1979, Dr. M.O. Owens Jr. had a vision for a Christian School in Gaston County that would be unapologetically Christian, non-denominational, financially self-supporting, and open to everyone in the community. Gaston Christian School was birthed out of this vision. Now, almost 40 years later, we celebrate the life and legacy of our founder with the dedication of the M.O. Owens Jr. Worship and Fine Arts Center.
“We recognize Dr. Owens for his relentless commitment to honor Jesus Christ throughout his life and are honored to have Dr. Owens with us at age 105 as we open this building to the glory of God and for the use of our school and community. May we be committed to following the example of our patriarch, Dr. Owens, in all that we do in this building and on this campus. Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it – Psalm 127:1.”