CRESTVIEW — A Crestview church’s pastor looks forward to serving the community following an unexpected, bumpy journey to a new location across town from its former West James Lee Boulevard location.
‘Three Sundays to get out’
During a congregational celebration at Grace Redeemer Presbyterian Church's former home last summer, a damper was thrown on the evening when the church's property owner told the Rev. David Young, the church’s pastor, to expect a $1,000 a month raise in rent.
Unable to meet the request, the church vacated its home of two years.
"He said we basically had three Sundays to get out," Young said. "That begins our saga. We were on a month-to-month lease. The owner got a good offer he couldn't refuse. We couldn't meet it so we started looking for a new home.
“We didn't realize how hard it is to get into a new building."
Thus began a cross-town odyssey; though not rivaling the Israelites' 40 years in the desert, it was a substantial, half-year upheaval for the young congregation that included unexpected challenges with city regulations.
Meeting city regulations
Scrambling for space, the church found a suitable location in a former warehouse and church on Goodwin Avenue off SouthFerdon Boulevard. The building had been unoccupied for a year or two, Young said.
"When we came in here we said, 'Yeah, we can work with this,'" he said.
The church moved into the building during the last week of August 2012. Before erecting a sign out front, Young checked with the Crestview Planning and Zoning Department to ensure Grace Redeemer wouldn't run afoul of signage regulations.
The church’s sign, it turned out, was the least of their problems, Young said.
"Parking for a warehouse was not nearly sufficient for an assembly at a church," Crestview City Planner Eric Davis said. "They also had to do a few improvements to the storm water system and put in a swell (trench) to carry storm water to the pond in the back of the building."
Indoors, Young said, work included blocking off an industrial garage door to meet heating and air conditioning code, and running loose electrical wiring through conduit.
"The inside stuff was easy compared to getting the parking area and driveway taken care of," Davis said.
‘We just kept pluggin’ along’
It wasn't until after Thanksgiving, after appearing before two Planning and Zoning committees and the city council, that Grace Redeemer got final approval for the needed repairs.
"Eric has been our little angel over in City Hall," Young said. "There were times when I felt the city was against us, but he stood up for us. The city told us all the reasons we shouldn't be in this building, but we just kept pluggin' along."
Davis coached church members through improvements, Young said. Having been a contractor before receiving his calling to ministry, Young said, "It's been like the old days. I felt more like a skilled laborer the last several months than a pastor. It's been fun!"
City landscape-buffer rules required the congregation to provide greenery — exactly four trees — out front along industrial Goodwin Avenue, which is lined with the county Public Works yard and contracting firm warehouses.
While its new home was being renovated, the congregation met at the Crestview Knights of Columbus lodge at Twin Hills Park.
"The Knights of Columbus were amazingly accommodating," Young said. "They bent over backwards for us."
During its transition, the church maintained its support of a Haitian orphanage, which has grown from 38 children to 160. Young also ministers to inmates at the county jail. Some recently released former prisoners volunteered their carpentry and electrical skills to help renovate the new church.
"All of this is bigger than us, but God is bigger than that," Young said. "This is a humble beginning but it is a nice presence. But it's been a good journey.
“The Lord's been good to us."
Want to go?
Grace Redeemer Presbyterian Church meets at 2799 Goodwin Ave., Crestview.
Schedule: Sunday school, 9:15 a.m.; coffee fellowship, 10 a.m.; and worship, 10:30 a.m.
The public is invited to a March 10 launch celebration following morning worship, with games, a bounce house, hotdogs and frozen lemonade. In addition, congregation members will plant a garden behind the church.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.