Church to buy former catering hall
HEBRON – It’s a new direction, but a very positive one, said New Life United Methodist Church Pastor Brian Harkness.
“Things have really changed gears,” he said. The church was raising money to build a new facility at the Lake Drive and US 40 intersection when church officials discovered that the empty Creative Catering building on West Main Street was available at nearly half of its earlier price. Church officials had looked at the former catering hall in their search for a permanent home but had found it out of their price range.
“God gave us the opportunity to take a second look at Creative Catering,” wrote Harkness on New Life’s Facebook page. “The building was listed at $920,000.00 when we looked at it a year ago. We found out that it had been lowered to $459,900.00. When we had looked at it the first time I actually prayed that if we were supposed to buy it, the price would drop in half as a clear sign from God. This price includes about 600 chairs, many tables, over 200 paved parking spots, a whole building generator and a commercial dishwasher, walk in freezer and range hood.”
Harkness said the congregations voted on the purchase of Creative Catering. First service was unanimous for purchasing the building. Second service was 89 in favor and two opposed. “Folks, we just bought a church!” he said.
Harkness said, with the church’s savings and pledges, they have enough to secure a loan to buy the building and begin planning the remodeling phase.
“We also have the land we purchased (for the proposed new church), which we could either sell for renovation money or sell or possibly trade for land next to the catering hall. Understand that before the deal is sealed, the building still must be inspected and a loan approved. If all goes well we should close on the building by the end of April,” he wrote. “God has blessed us greatly.”
Harkness said Wednesday the two members voting “no” were not opposed to the Creative Catering building, but the speed in which the decision was made to abandon plans for a new building. “We’re not losing them,” he said, adding that they understand the circumstances.
Harkness explained that church officials believed the Creative Catering building would sell quickly at its new reduced price so they had to move as quickly as possible.
“It was a huge, huge change in direction in a short time,” he said. In fact, others in the congregation who didn’t like the idea of moving from the existing church building approved moving to the Creative Catering building. “There’s more unity now,” said Harkness.
A fundraising campaign earlier this year raised roughly $347,000 in pledges, which was successful, said Harkness, but church officials were unsure if it was enough to begin work on a new building this year. More money may have been needed after all the construction bids were received. Also, plans for the new building did not include a parking lot, chairs, a kitchen facility and other equipment already available in the Creative Catering building. These things would need to be added later.
Assuming they can close by the end of his month, Harkness said the building would be ready for the congregation this autumn. He estimated the proposed new building wouldn’t have been ready for a few years. “This made a three year plan a three month plan,” said Harkness. “I felt that God spoke clearly.” He added that the existing New Life UMC building would likely be sold.
Harkness said on the New Life Facebook page that there may be misunderstanding that the church bought the Creative Catering business along with the building. “We are buying the building not the Creative Catering business,” he said. “The business is owned by our friends and continues to operate apart from the building.”
Harkness said the whole experience has been humbling. Even with all the hard work the congregation contributed to raise funding for the proposed new facility, a greater thing occurred. “It’s as if God said, ‘Here you go,’” said Harkness. “He can top all our hard work with a giant gift.”