Praise Temple Church of God in Christ's prayers for a new home were answered when a former liquor store went up for sale.
Sin to salvation.
That's the line on plans to transform a boarded-up liquor store into a community-service church at the corner of Seventh and Connecticut streets.
"I think it's a positive move," said the Rev. Paul Winn, pastor of Praise Temple Church of God in Christ. "We're taking back what the devil stole."
The 3-year-old church plans to move into the former Else Liquor Store, 315 E. Seventh, in late April or early May. A new fellowship center and sanctuary with 28 seats will replace coolers, display shelves and storage racks that once featured beer, wine and liquor.
After remodeling work, members of Winn's growing Pentecostal congregation will be able to worship in a place of their own, instead of gathering Sunday mornings at the city's Community Building, 115 W. 11th. They've been looking for a new home for more than a year.
"It's a challenge, turning a liquor store into a church house," said Winn, who also works as a human relations specialist at city hall. "That's the challenge, and that's the joy -- serving the community."
Aileen Else had operated a liquor store on the property for 45 years, until closing it a year ago. The store briefly reopened under new ownership, but closed late last year.
The church is assuming the balance of the previous owner's $80,000 deal to buy the building, contents and property, and Else is looking forward to the church's future prospects for expansion. She owns rental property next door that could one day be sold.
Else still lives on Rhode Island Street behind the old liquor store, and knows having a house of God nearby will be a welcome change.
"It might be better than having a liquor store and having all the drunks hanging around," Else said. "Every time I tell somebody they get a shock out of it, they've seen me there for so many years."
Else said she got out of the liquor business because of all the bad checks, loitering and outright crimes at the corner. She won't miss that.
"It was time for me to get out," she said. "There were too many hold-ups ... probably four or five times a year. The bad checks were terrible. You just couldn't make a living."
Winn and his 30-member congregation plan to use the lot for plenty of good work. "Community outreach" is the plan, fostering pride in an area that could use some divine intervention.
"It's going to be a positive use for this building and property," Winn said. "We think it's going to be a real blessing. We see a bright future for our church here in Lawrence."
-- Mark Fagan's phone message number is 832-7188. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.