Turning Point moves again PDF Print E-mail
Written by BILL RYAN, Sentinel Religion Editor   
Friday, 04 October 2013 08:53
Pastor Larry Whatley. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Being a church "on the move" can mean different things. For Turning Point United Methodist Church, it means on Sunday the worship services will return to where it all began - at the Woodland Mall.
Pastor Larry Whatley said many volunteers have worked very hard to convert the former Julie's Dance Studio space in the south wing to accommodate church services.
"It is most impressive," he said of the effort by members.
Their dedication and effort  is the "biggest thing that inspires me."
He added the move back to the mall has united the church, both long-term members and new parishioners.
"There's no strife, no squabbling, everyone just comes together with so much joy," he said noting their view of the work as a way to build new relationships and friendships.
Formed in the early 2000s, Turning Point held its first services in what was then the "entertainment wing" of the mall, when there was a toy shop, a skateboard park along with the cinemas. After meeting in other mall locations they later were excited to be able as Whatley says to branch out to hold services in an older church on South Main Street near the U.S. Post office.
The pastor indicated when the church left the mall, it was not necessarily the church's first choice; however he said the mall's management team at the time did not seem to have an interest in keeping a church at the mall. New owners do not ascribe to that philosophy as Turning Point joins Broken Chains as the two active churches located at the North Main Street facility.
"It was like a miracle for us when we left the mall the first time," Whatley said this week.
Because of the financial costs involved in maintaining the large and aging building, the church found it necessary to seek another home. Earlier this year, they joined with LifePoint to occupy the former home of Northside Baptist Church on West Poe Road.
"That also was the right move at the right time. The pastor welcomed us with open arms," Whatley said of LifePoint's Jaime Velasquez.
Whatley said they always knew it would only be a temporary home.
"This is our own place now. We can have services when we need to," Whatley said as he sat as the mall's newest occupant.
The church averages a consistent 40 attendees at the 11 a.m. Sunday services.
Noting the declining number of retail stores at the mall, Whatley said, "I think we can add some life to the mall."
He said his members will patronize the businesses before and after services and the church is also planning to stage several special events which will bring people to the mall.
He calls the move back to the mall, "A unique opportunity to reach more people, young and old alike with the good news."
He hopes the open-door policy may attract shoppers and mall walkers into the church services, especially with the music which he hopes "permeates the entire mall."
He calls the music "anointed," describing it as lively, joyful, inspirational and encouraging.
The pastor added, the church will participate in the mall's Halloween trick or treat, and other events.
"We want people to see a service (noting a window which will remain open to view the sanctuary during services). We want them to be welcome. We want to be a place for those who are searching, to be a 'turning point' for them to connect and turn their sadness to joy. We want you to leave better than you came."
A dedication service for the new facility is slated for Oct. 27 at 11 a.m. The community is invited to join with the congregation at any service, but especially for the dedication.
Last Updated on Friday, 04 October 2013 08:57

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