By GLENN HANNIGAN
Jamey Prickett says it was a leap of faith.
God didn’t wait long to provide a comfortable landing.
Liberty Hill UMC in Canton, where Prickett serves as pastor, was facing a painful financial reality this summer. Cherokee High School, where Liberty Hill has been meeting on Sunday mornings, announced in spring that it would be significantly raising rent beginning in July. Even before the increase was announced, Liberty Hill was struggling to meet the hefty rental fee for a temporary meeting place.
“We knew it was not good stewardship to pay such a large amount to the school for one day a week,” Prickett said. “So, we made a decision as a staff that one way or the other, we would not sign a new lease at the high school.”
The problem: Liberty Hill had been searching for a permanent home for years, visiting numerous buildings, only to face one frustration after another. When church leaders were able to find, on a few occasions, a suitable building in a not-too-distant location, there were always significant renovation costs required and months of work.
And when the local school board announced its unwelcome news about rental fee hikes a couple months ago, Liberty Hill was facing a shortage of both time and money.
“Once we made that decision, God opened a door,” Prickett said. “It’s almost like we had been wondering in the desert and were led to the promised land.”
In the case of Liberty Hill, the promised land turned out to be the old Canton Textile Mill, a historic huge brick structure just blocks from downtown. Its high ceilings of heavy, thick lumber are braced by large round wood poles. It is a one-of-a-kind structure, exactly the type of place Liberty Hill had been seeking for so many years.
In June, just weeks before the lease ran out with Cherokee High, Liberty Hill held its first worship service in the move-in-ready, 10,000-square-feet of space in the old mill. An added blessing: Liberty Hill is saving 30 percent in rent while gaining a seven-day-a-week facility.
“It is like this just fell into our lap,” Prickett said. “We have been blessed. And while this building might not be suitable for a traditional church, it is perfect for us. We are a missions-oriented church with an alternative worship style. The first time we walked in and looked at it, we realized this was the place for us.”
The worship space in the beautifully rehabbed mill can accommodate 225. The building also has eight offices, a youth area, a kitchen and a large meeting room and group gathering space.
“We are already planning on adding a second service this fall,” Prickett said. “We are going to put this space to good use.”
This article recently ran in the North Georgia Advocate, the official print source of the North Georgia United Methodist Conference. For more information about the North Georgia Advocate, or to subscribe, please visit www.ngumc.org/advocate or call 678.533.1376.