BUCKHANNON – On Saturday, Feb. 2, Justin Bowers, pastor of the New Community Church in Buckhannon, took to social media to share an ironic situation.
Bowers explained that several years ago, his wife, Carrie, wanted to redo their kitchen counter with yardsticks – a task they completed.
In his post he said, “Today we realized that one of the yardsticks we used came out of the building our church is moving into Sunday. For five-and-a-half years, I’ve been praying for different church space, for a church home with accessibility, for a place where vision and programs could continue to expand. Today, we realized, looking at this counter, that God has known THE WHOLE FREAKING TIME.”
On Sunday, hundreds of local folks gathered for the open house of New Community Church at 38 N. Kanawha St. in downtown Buckhannon, the former home of Audrey’s Downtown Restaurant. Bowers said he and church members were thankful to find the space, which will allow the church to grow and house the ministries they hope to bring to the Buckhannon area.
“This morning was an open house where we will have a worship service beginning at 10:30 a.m.,” Bowers said. “We are just giving everyone a taste of the space and have folks check us out. Our big kickoff will be next Sunday, Feb. 10, where we will have services at 9:30 and 11 a.m. Everyone is invited to attend.”
Keeley Burnside, New Community Church Leadership Team and Women’s Ministry member, said the women’s groups of New Community Church try to meet at least once monthly.
“We host a coffee and conversation meeting after the second service of Sundays and before, we would walk up and meet at Stone Tower,” Burnside said. “Now that we have a bit more space, we may stay here in the building. It’s very exciting to have that space.”
Burnside said other activities are planned, and in February, the women will meet on a Sunday evening for a bowling activity.
“We are trying to do one activity a month together – dinner, a movie or something less structured to get women involved and feel less pressure than in a traditional Bible study that can be intimidating sometimes,” she said. “It’s more about starting those relationships, and then our hope is when people have more questions, they will feel more comfortable to open up.”
The new space, to Burnside, offers the church and its members the ability to adapt.
“We were so limited with our youth in previous locations because of space restrictions,” Burnside said. “Not having those restrictions any longer will allow our outreach to be stronger.”
Burnside said they have talked about hosting a free dinner before the Buckhannon-Upshur High School prom and said this new space will allow the conversation to continue.
“If we offer couples a couple of dinner options and ask them to come and have dinner and then go to your dance, it will free couples of the stress of making reservations or even [finding the money] – it is hard to pay for dinners – and it could be a great outreach for our community.”
Another plus of the new location is that it is ADA-accessible.
“This is huge for our local population, whether accessibility is age-related or an actual disability – we didn’t have that ability before –and this makes coming to our church less of a barrier,” Burnside said. “They can come and see what they think,” Burnside said.
Burnside said she joined the New Community Church when it was first forming.
“Justin (Bowers) and my husband grew up together, and when Carrie and Justin moved back to the area, we received the invite to come and join,” Burnside said. “What keeps us here is the openness to feel okay with yourself and not feel constricted by standards that, unfortunately, sometimes churches put upon people.”
She said another plus is the relationships she has formed with other church members.
“We are not judgmental – I truly believe that,” she said.
New Community Church member Jeremy Bailey attended Sunday’s Open House. He said he enjoys attending because it is different.
“The people are more my age, and I know lots of people who attend … that is what got me started coming,” Bailey said. “Justin’s message every Sunday keeps me coming back. It is a very good message and a very good church.
“New Community Church is livelier – it is also more laid back,” Bailey added. “It is more my speed. We don’t judge others. The door is always open, and we welcome others. Come try it.”
Three younger members ages 11 to 13 – Malia, Presley and Quinn – said they really enjoy New Community Church.
“It is the people that I like. They are all happy and fun to be around. I am in the youth group,” said Quinn.
Presley said she really enjoys the youth group.
“We went on a retreat in October, and it was really fun,” Presley said.
Malia said she likes the fellowship.
“We have been through so many different buildings, but we all stayed together through it. There are still people here from when we started this in our house,” Malia said.
West Virginia Wesleyan College senior Ebonie Hicks is from Stafford, Virginia and said she joined the New Community Church last semester.
“I feel like this offers more of a community feeling,” Hicks said. “I feel very welcome, and it’s laid back, which is more comfortable for me. I like that I can come as I am.”
Hicks said the music and the sermon message is what keeps her coming back.
“I feel like Justin really speaks to me in his sermon,” Hicks said. “His presentation is great.”
Bowers said coming to New Community Church is a joy.
“It is fun to do this with all of these people,” he said. “My dad was a Kroger store manager for years. He said moving the church is as exciting as opening a new store. I told him ‘yes,’ but all of these people have volunteered and given their hours and time, and it is amazing to see how it has all come together. We are grateful to be a part of this.”
New Community Church is hosting their kickoff celebration Sunday, Feb. 10 at their new location of 38 N. Kanawha St. in Buckhannon with services at 9:30 and 11 a.m. Everyone is welcome to attend.
Additional information about New Community Church is available online at www.newcommunitywv.com or on Facebook, or by calling 304-460-9160.