Right now, it’s a large brown empty warehouse at 1735 South River Road in St. Charles.
“It’s a big ugly building, but it’s ours,” said Trey Herweck lead pastor of Refuge Church. He was, I believe, quoting a parishioner. Earlier in February, the church closed on the lease. “We have a six-year lease with an option for renewal and will look toward a lengthy renewal.”
Herweck took me on a tour of the building. It is a two-story structure with wide open floors of exposed beams, pipes, and concrete floors.
Herweck described where the lobby, the children’s area, the offices and the worship space would be.
“There are still a couple of hurdles,” Herweck told me. “We meet with next. Once we have all the permits, we hope to be using the building in July.”
Refuge Church started in 2006 and leased in in St. Charles for Sunday morning worship. Herweck is the founding pastor. After 3 ½ years it moved to while . But, the lease required the church to move out if the school district reopened the school which it did. The church finished at Blackhurst in March 2011. After months of discussion another lease option with the school district fizzled out.
Then it was on to the and and now full circle back to Memorial Hall.
“We’ve been everywhere,” Herweck said.
With the leased space, Refuge Church can stop the travelling around. Herweck can stop hauling around Sunday school supplies and sound systems each week, setting it all up and taking it all down, only to do it all again seven days later.
A church is more than a building. It’s the people, it’s the ministry, it’s the mission. Money and energy spent on a mortgage and maintenance can be spent on helping people, changing lives, spreading the Gospel.
Yet it is also worship and community and with a congregation approaching 200, Refuge Church and its leadership know the value of having a place to gather together, and also a place from which to do and be the church.
“This is one of the things we prayed for,” Herweck said, “A building that was not being used.”
He added, “There are so many empty buildings in St. Charles. We prayed that we could find a place where we could go in and redeem the space.”
Redemption. It’s not your usual architectural or construction terminology.
It is the language of faith applied to an unused building that will be cleaned and painted. Tables and chairs will be set up, work and worship space will be designated. It’s not that it is a low maintenance operation, but the people know what they need to worship God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
For most of six years, their worship needs were carried from place to place in a van and a trailer. Soon that will stop. It will be unpacked and remain in the building where people will enter to praise, pray and proclaim the Gospel and to give thanks for their own lives reclaimed, restored and redeemed by a saving grace and love they have not earned.
I know. . This warehouse space with its open and unfinished interior fits them, I believe. Not rough, but not polished; in the world, but not of the world. What they need, not all that they might want. I plan to be there when they worship in their new space.