First Presbyterian Church and Grace Point Christian Fellowship have opened a new chapter by moving into a new facility, Harvest Community Center, in MorganField.
The unique partnership lasted for years, with the two churches initially sharing a facility that once belonged to Grace Point, formerly First Christian Church.
Church members and local officials gathered on Sunday to inaugurate the new worship center at 4590 Corbina Road. The two churches will share the management of the facility, but they will organize their own worship services.
Reverend Chandler “Chan” Willis, pastor of First Presbyterian Church since 2011, said both churches see MorganField as the best place to reach new members, especially residents of the relatively new development who may not have no established church.
“This is an opportunity like no other,” said Willis.
Reverend Vince Endris, pastor at Grace Point for six years, said the partnership allows the two churches to pool resources and promote unity between congregations and denominations.
“To me that makes so much sense,” he said. “In a Christian sense, it’s also about learning that you can overcome your differences and work together.”
The First Presbyterian Church has been a staple in Lake Charles since the late 1800s. However, years of declining membership led to the decision in 2012 to sell its location on Second Avenue, where it had stood for decades, a said Willis.
“It was a very large facility that we were underutilizing,” he said. “There was a lot of upkeep and the overhead was an albatross around the church’s neck.”
The Greater St. Mary’s Baptist Missionary Church purchased the facility in 2015, and First Presbyterian intended to purchase property further south in Lake Charles.
Having no place of worship for members of the First Presbyterian, Grace Point entered the scene. Friends George Swift, of First Presbyterian, and RB Smith, of Grace Point, made a deal whereby First Presbyterian would pay rent to Grace Point to use the sanctuary and a wing of the building.
As the two churches shared the facility, they grew closer, Willis said.
“It seemed logical,” he said.
When Endris first arrived at Grace Point, he had no idea that First Presbyterian was in the same location.
“I thought it was weird to have two churches sharing a building,” he said.
Endris said he got along well with Willis and got used to the partnership. Like First Presbyterian, Grace Point was also looking to sell its facility and move to a growing location south of town.
“Since we both have limited resources, we decided why not pool our resources and share the property,” said Willis.
Moving the two churches to a new location was a no-brainer, Endris said.
“Normally a lot of money that comes to church pays for building or utilities,” he said. “It undermines the church’s mission to help others. This arrangement allows us to have the building at a fraction of the cost and to devote more funds to missions and other uses.
The churches were to be on the MorganField site by the end of November last year. However, the arrival ashore of Category 4 Hurricane Laura in August damaged the facility and delayed opening by nearly a year.
“The delay probably gave us more time to prepare when we moved in,” Willis said. “Everything is in God’s time, not in ours. “
Endris said Grace Point was trying to sell its Second Avenue facility when Hurricane Laura hit. He said Laura’s damage would have forced Grace Point to close, had it not been for the partnership with the church.
“We had to sell it a lot cheaper,” he said. “Personally, I think the two churches wouldn’t be here yet because of COVID-19 and hurricanes. “
Willis said the Harvest Community Center will also serve as an activity center for the MorganField community.
“It’s not just for religious or denominational activities,” he said. “It’s for birthdays, homeowner association meetings, boy scouts, AA or whatever,” he said.
Endris said the churches coexisting in one place shows how important it is for people and faith-based organizations to come together, instead of being divided.
“I think it is a necessary cause,” he said. “We don’t just move to stay alive. I think we have something to offer the community. How can we expect the world to unite if we do not unite ourselves? “