WILMINGTON — The public visibility of Dove Church has gone up markedly since moving to re-purposed space on busy Rombach Avenue.
Although the congregation has been around some 27 years, they’ve previously assembled in relatively low-profile places: a house, a gymnasium in Sligo, the YMCA’s facility, and in a downtown Wilmington building in the historic district — a zone that limits signage possibilities.
After only three weeks in the former Bob & Carl’s grocery store building on the city’s east end, there have been more guests and new faces, said Senior Elder Steve Fricke and Pastoral Elder Dave Hinman.
The general public is invited to an open house on Sunday, Nov. 19 from 3 to 5 p.m. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t look like a grocery store anymore. There will be guided tours, light refreshments, an opportunity to ask questions, and a slide show of photographs illustrating how the remodeling work progressed.
Dove acquired the vacant and dilapidated store building at the strip mall four years ago.
“A year ago we decided if we’re going to have an empty building, it might as well be the old one and not the new one,” said Fricke. The goal was to move to the new location in Fall 2018. They made their timeline and everybody loves the place, he added.
Church volunteers did most of the interior demolition, all of the painting and some of the lighter work.
The receiving lobby has been especially popular, with people lingering in the large lobby. The lobby is like a gathering place where people hang out, “share what’s going on in their week, that type of thing,” Hinman said.
If community groups or organizations have a desire to utilize the lobby or a conference room that can seat up to 44 people, the church is open to that, said Fricke. Narcotics Anonymous uses the conference room on Thursdays.
Last weekend, the new facility housed the Dove Christian Fellowship International’s midwest leaders conference.
There are economic advantages to re-purposing an empty commercial building — such as Dove Church has done or Rivers Crossing church did with the former Kings Island cinema, Fricke said. Those advantages include not having to buy ground and put in all the utilities, and of course not building from scratch.
But there have been financial setbacks in the remodeling project. For example, they had to cut up the floor and put in new drain lines, something they had not anticipated.
For the first Sunday worship service held at the facility, four or five area pastors sent congratulatory videos.
“Dove is definitely not an island in the spiritual community. Rather we are part of a growing network of people who just believe that cooperation is fundamental to the church of Wilmington growing,” Hinman remarked.
The celebration room (sanctuary) has sound panels on the walls, new digital equipment, all new chairs, and overhead stage lights donated by Sugartree Ministries. The room is approved for seating 300 people.
Hinman mentioned the possibility of open-air concerts in the front parking lot when the season permits.
Hinman described the Dove congregation as primarily a hardworking, blue-collar, young congregation, with an average age in the mid-30s.
A part of the grocery store was kept. Adjacent to the church’s coffee counter is the deli flooring.
Space remains for re-purposing in the 30,000 square feet building. There are Phase 2 plans for a banquet hall that can accommodate 200 people and will be suitable for wedding receptions or conferences. There is no set timeline on Phase 2, they said.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.