SouthPark Church Unveils New Home
By: Ken Garfield
Seven years after embarking on a journey to share God’s love in a bold, new way, Sharon United Methodist Church has reached its destination. With a new name – SouthPark Church – and a new home amid apartments, businesses and even a hotel, the congregation is eagerly welcoming all in need of faith, hope and love.
John Shamp belonged to the old church with the ski slope-style steeple located across from the main entrance to SouthPark mall. He is proud to be a part of the church reborn. He understands that a house of worship is more than a building. It’s the people, and the mission, and the opportunities this new day brings to serve and share Christ. “The world changes,” says Shamp, 84, a member since 1966. “We have to find a way to change with it. I see this as a major step forward for us.”
This “major step,” as Shamp says, is one of the most unique in American church life.
Having reached its peak in Sunday attendance 20 years ago, the church sought revival by selling 6.1 acres of its prime property to Childress Klein developers for $15 million. The Charlotte-based developer has transformed the site into Apex SouthPark, home to 347 apartments, a 175-room hotel and 80,000 square feet of retail and commercial space. The church kept one acre in the heart of the complex for its new home – a four-story building that includes traditional and contemporary worship space and ample room for children, youth and fellowship. The second phase will feature a 700-seat performing arts center for cultural events plus classrooms, music suite and offices.
SouthPark Church sees Apex SouthPark as an urban village with the church at the heart of it all. The plan is to open it up to the community – concerts and other cultural offerings, speakers, gathering space for business and ministry meetings, meals and more. The church’s construction cost for all this was $22 million. Besides the land sale, a loan and generous giving by members, SouthPark Church has developed other ways to generate financial support: Leasing retail and office space in its building and selling advertising on an outdoor digital sign.
Rev. Kyle Thompson says the Western North Carolina Conference has offered invaluable support, guidance and encouragement. Bishops Larry Goodpaster and then Paul Leeland embraced the vision. So has current Metro District Superintendent David Hockett and the three preceding district superintendents – Mark Andrews, Sally Langford and Gary Royals. The Metro District Board of Location and Building OK’d selling the land to Childress Klein and applying that $15 million toward the new campus. Generous grants from the Annual Conference, Metro District and Reynolds Foundation helped meet several needs. Among them: Website redesign, tech support, equipment for the church’s temporary stay at the Regal Phillips Place movie theater and developing a brand that articulates who and what SouthPark Church seeks to be.
What SouthPark Church seeks to be is a place of prayer, worship, fellowship, study and service. A gathering place for the 12,000-plus souls on site at Apex SouthPark each week, plus thousands more driving past – believers, skeptics and everyone in between. A source of comfort for all whose burdens weigh them down.
It all goes back to the Bible.
Since arriving at the church in 2012, Thompson has lifted up the story of the woman at the well in the Gospel according to John. Thirsty, she encounters Jesus, who tells her, “Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.”
Says Thompson, “We want to be a big well.”
SouthPark Church is in the Apex SouthPark development on Sharon Road across from the main entrance to SouthPark mall. To learn more about the worship schedule and other activities, visit www.southparkchurch.com or call (704) 366-9166. Currently the church livestreams worship at 9 a.m. (traditional) and 11 a.m. (modern) from the new campus. In-person worship is tentatively planned for the new year, depending on the COVID-19 situation. Keep an eye on the church website.
Ken Garfield, former Director of Communications at Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, is a freelance writer/editor. His focus is on telling the stories of charitable causes, writing obituaries and editing books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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