MONROE, MICH.

Saying they were inspired by their creator, scores of energetic folks at Crosswalk Community Church have turned a former roller skating rink into a new worship center.

The 200-member congregation used a bank loan to buy five acres that includes the sprawling 25,000-squarefoot complex for $350,000.

The former Great Lakes Skateway has sat empty for two to three years. For the last three months, volunteers from the church have cleaned and remodeled the building to move into this Christmas.

The first worship service will be at 10 a.m. Sunday, said the Rev. Dale Hayford, pastor at the church.

The congregation, which started in a barn in August 2008, began its search for a permanent center about three years ago. The church rents two worship sites — Monroe Middle School on Sunday mornings and First Baptist Church on Wednesday nights — at a cost of about $3,300 a month.

The cost of the monthly mortgage payment on the new center is less than that, Hayford said.

The last worship service at the school was held Sunday.

With the help of Davison Building & Development, volunteers in Phase 1 have transformed the front half of the former rink into a worship place with a sanctuary, foyer, fellowship room, teen room and restrooms.

Workers for Davison enclosed the sanctuary with drywall and a high ceiling; featured is a 16-by-55-foot stage that will be used by musicians and three worship teams.

There also will be two large screens in front and back for visitors to follow the service and music and seating for up to 270 people. The congregation opted to reinsulate the high ceiling rather than putting in a drop ceiling, which saved about $22,000, Hayford said.

The main entrance to the building will be from the south, not the west as was the case for the rink.

The roller rink, opened in 1977 and once called Xanadu Skating Center, was a popular gathering place especially in the winter months. It has had several different owners and had been closed for quite some time before the church bid on it.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” said Kevin Shipman, secretary of the church board who had three sons play roller hockey two nights a week when it was a rink. “The building was sitting empty and back off the road. We’ve converted it into serving the community. We’re really community-minded.”

Vern and Kathy Daniel have been working “almost every day” since Oct. 1 to tear down a concrete block wall, paint some of the walls and renovate the kitchen. To see it all come together after all the hard work is mindboggling, the couple said.

“It makes me cry,” Kathy Daniel said. “It’s been a dream of ours for 5? years. Just to have a home of your own … when you’re renting, it’s not your place. It’s someone else’s. But this church is like a family. It’s the people.”

Phase 2 will convert the remaining 12,500 square feet, or the back half of the original rink, into a larger sanctuary and about 10 classrooms for Bible studies and children’s Sunday school.

Some of the nicks in the ceiling and walls from hockey pucks still can be seen. In September, about 100 volunteers used sledge hammers and wheelbarrows to remove a 3-foot-tall cinder block wall that surrounded the rink.

“We knocked the brick down by hand and carted it off with wheelbarrows and a Bobcat,” Shipman, 52, said. “It took a lot of backbone.”

The five acres extends all the way back to the CSX Railway. An emergency exit to the building was added to the north. The former concession area, skate rental and office area and admission space for skating, easily recognized by their maizeand blue colors, will be repainted in the next few weeks to an off white, Hayford said.

An area formerly used for skating parties will be the room for youth group ministry led by Eric Shipman, Kevin Shipman’s nephew.

There also are plans to create a coffee and refreshment area for socializing and for funeral luncheons and discipleship gatherings. Last week, Monroe Township issued the church a certificate of occupancy.

He said the congregation has a mortgage on the building but saved money and collected donations over the past five years to pay for more than half of the sale price.

Johnathan John, a board member and lay pastor, has worked with the volunteers from the start. He called the renovation an “incredible journey.”

“This fulfills the line Jesus said in the Bible that the good work I started in you, I will see it through to completion,” John, 58, said.

Crosswalk was instrumental in bringing Rachel’s Challenge, an anti-bullying and violence ministry named after Rachel Scott, the first victim of the Columbine school shooting in 1999, to Monroe County schools in 2005 and 2010.

The church also organized the Nick Vujicic talk on learning to live without limbs at the Monroe County Fairgrounds in 2010 that benefited Heartbeat of Monroe.

Both Hayford, who left the ministry six years ago before being “prayed back” to lead the congregation, and Debbie Hottenstein, the women’s minister for the church, said they were amazed by “what the Lord has done” with the limited amount of funds and resources available.

“I wanted to walk away from ministry and call it quits,” the pastor recalled. “But people and other pastors prayed for me. I wouldn’t be here if not for this congregation.”



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