It’s been a year since two churches joined – the fellowship with no place to worship and the congregation that wasn’t filling its building. It’s been year of challenge and change and, now, cause to celebrate.
The Journey at Lake Wylie is celebrating its union with Pine Grove Baptist Church by hosting a community lunch at noon Feb. 1 after the 10:30 a.m. worship service at S.C. 557.
“It was a literal match made in heaven,” said The Journey pastor Kenny Ashley.
Ashley started The Journey three years ago, meeting in schools. A school policy change meant having to move about a year ago. Ashley and church member Ben Rawls stopped at Pine Grove Baptist to ask about leasing the life center on Sunday mornings. They found a congregation with an opposite problem – facilities but dwindling membership.
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“We were a group of people without a church,” Rawls said. “We really didn’t have the resources to build a church.”
The two bodies voted to join together. Now The Journey has about 200 parishioners on Sundays. The pastor isn’t as concerned with adding members as he is with helping “raise the spiritual water level of our entire community.”
“It’s giving people respect and freedom to be who they are on their journey,” he said. “The way you love God is by loving people.
“We just want to expand the mission,” Ashley said.
A major success of the first year together has been the growth of the school. A daycare program is full, serving children 6 weeks to 3 years old. The school running pre-K to fifth grade still has openings.
“It’s a very traditional approach to education,” said lead teacher Marty Miller, there four years. “We teach cursive handwriting.”
The school saw a boost during Common Core debates.
“It’s traditional math,” Miller said. “It’s traditional reading, spelling.”
The united congregation has weathered everything from a steeple nearly blowing off to replacing the roof and sign out front. Church leaders say they’re prepared to see what another year will bring.
“It was really miraculous the way it worked out,” Rawls said.
The method for their first year in a new home, and for coming years, is to keep their faith simple.
“My vision is to help people see God as He really is,” Ashley said. “Ever since the garden, God has gotten a bad rap.”