During the week, the red brick storefront at 401 E. Kennedy Street was a familiar hangout for All Saints Spartanburg. Parishioners used the rented retail space as a parish hall, one night for a healing service, another night for a concert.
But though they did life there, the multipurpose space wasn’t where All Saints held its Sunday services. They met each Sunday for the past five years at the 500-seat Chapman Cultural Center in downtown Spartanburg. With the Spirit’s leading, however, the church of 75 decided to move its worship service into the Kennedy Street building a few months ago, officially making it The Kennedy St. Worship Center.
The parish celebrated this decision at a worship facility dedication service on January 5, at which six people were also confirmed and Bishop Sandy Greene gave a missional charge praising All Saints’ work in the community. Because that work revolved around the Kennedy Street space, not much had to change. The church had made sure to patronize the other shops and restaurants in their shopping center—being mindful not to occupy parking spaces—and also offered The Kennedy St. Worship Center to the public free of charge. Locals don’t have to be Christians or have a religious agenda to use the space, so bands come to record and 30 to 40 people attend a bluegrass jam night every Friday. A tax-exempt 501 (c)(3), All Saints gives this gift to level the playing field with other businesses subject to high taxation and rent.
“Those are the kinds of things we try to do to be a church that’s a little different from the rest,” says the Rev. Charlie Vensel.
The choice to occupy a single building shows the church’s increased focus and cohesion, knowing who they are and what’s important, Charlie says. While they would have loved to fill the Chapman Cultural Center with 500 people, everyone knew they needed a more intimate space.
“In the last number of months we felt the Lord saying, ‘Step back and come into your own place,’” Charlie says. “Here at Kennedy St. Worship Center, we feel really good and intimate. There is more energy and a very bright and optimistic future. From the outside, it can seem like a step back, but on the other hand it’s a tremendous blessing. We’re more sure about who we are and how to express that.”
The building was ready to be used as a worship center, thanks to additions and renovations All Saints completed in the last two years.
“We had started building extra space on it where we could host two groups at one time, places to do children’s ministry or a conference room where something else could go on,” Charlie explains.
Though zoning is often an issue for churches, the favor All Saints had built with the city and community enabled them to overcome zoning challenges and equip the building for assembly. The occupancy of the retail space was 55, but the church raised it to 99. They can now seat about 85 people at their Sunday service and are adding a second midweek service, with plenty of room for nursery and childcare.
Settled into their permanent home, All Saints has an exciting lineup for the New Year. They are walking through the Bible in 2014, partnering with Daily Audio Bible and its founder Brian Hardin, who will be a special guest at the church this month. The journey through Old and New Testaments will replace the Lectionary for the most part as parishioners read through the Bible together.
“We are relying on the Word of God as the conduit of the Holy Spirit that transforms people,” Charlie says.
While in the Cultural Center, All Saints sometimes fell prey to the mentality of “people will come to us,” but the Kennedy Street Worship Center has prompted them not to take any shortcuts.
“Now, we are refocusing our efforts of doing the deep hard work of getting involved in other people’s lives for the sake of the gospel,” Charlie says.
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