Congregation looks for worship space after church sold
Posted June 28, 2010 6:04 p.m. EDT
Updated June 28, 2010 6:54 p.m. EDT
Coats, N.C. — A congregation in Coats was left without a church Sunday after their house of worship was sold without their knowledge.
Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Coats was founded in 1946, and many of its 60 or so members had worshiped there for decades. The property was owned by the Lumberton-based Full Gospel Tabernacle Conference, however, and the conference sold the church, at 178 N. Railroad St., to an Alamance County minister last week for $550,000.
"We read about it in the newspaper," said Lisa Griffin, 34, who has attended the church since she was a child. "Everybody’s shocked. I was in shock. It’s like you’re living a bad dream, and you won’t wake up from it.”
Roy Avery, a trustee of the church, said the conference was likely punishing the church for not holding to what members view as strict, outdated religious rules, such as barring members from visiting the beach or swimming pools and prohibiting women from cutting their hair or wearing pants.
A conference official declined to comment on the sale.
Avery says his church offered to buy the building in the past, but the conference never gave church leaders a price.
"This church was founded on nickles and dimes," he said.
His wife, Nancy Avery, noted that former church members bought and installed the stained-glass windows in the brick church.
"They should have given us a chance instead of selling it out from under us," she said. “I didn’t think a Christian person would do that to another Christian church."
The church's new owner, Kevin Barbour, has led a Full Gospel Tabernacle church near Burlington for two years. He has renamed the Coats church Calvary Full Gospel and welcomes the displaced congregation to join his church.
"We have an open-door policy, and anyone who wants to worship the Lord is welcome," Barbour said in a telephone interview. “I don’t have anything bad to say about anybody. I just want to preach the gospel.”
Church members said joining Calvary Full Gospel isn't an option.
"If you've lived in a house for 60 years and somebody throws you out on the street and you were looking for a home, I think you would be devastated too," Roy Avery said.
He and other members expressed gratitude that other community members have offered them space to worship until they have their own church building again.