Members of The Father’s House were devastated last October as they watched flames engulf and destroy their church building.
“The fire seemed to crush our hopes and dreams of meeting the needs of people in the community because we lost everything,” said the Rev. Mike Guarnieri, senior pastor. “Together, we wept and prayed. And as we rode the emotional roller coaster, we made a commitment to rebuild, so that we could continue our mission to help people in need.”
The congregation of the nondenominational church has fulfilled its commitment to rebuild and now is worshipping at its new 6,500-square-foot building at 4061 Wadsworth Road. Regular Sunday worship services begin at 10 a.m.; Wednesday night prayer and Bible study services are at 6:30 p.m.
A grand opening is being planned for January.
The simple single-story, vinyl-sided, wood frame building includes a multiuse area with a seating capacity of 188 for worship and fellowship. The small commercial kitchen has a serving window that opens into the multipurpose room.
The building also includes a nursery, classrooms, youth room, office space and food pantry.
“We didn’t want it to be too formal because we’re more organic and want people to feel welcome to come as they are. It’s like a house with ‘churchy’ touches,” said Guarnieri, who founded the church in 1996. “One of our main goals was to get everything on one floor, so that people with disabilities won’t have a difficult time with access. We’re so excited to be in our own building and not have steps.”
About five years ago, the congregation shifted its focus to outreach and started a ministry called the Love Center. The outreach to those troubled by things like financial worries, stress, loneliness, divorce and unemployment included a hot meal, fellowship, a message of hope and inspiration and free groceries for those who needed them. The ministry also provided clothing and furniture and food for the homebound.
Since the fire destroyed the former church, at 2983 Wadsworth Road, the outreach ministry was put on hold because the congregation didn’t have a permanent home. Initially, they gathered for service at Grace Church, then moved to Lake Anna Hall in Barberton.
The Rev. Sue Carr, director of outreach, said the hope is to have the ministry back up and running by the beginning of the year. Over the holidays, the church plans to distribute bagged meals to the homeless.
Carr was the person who discovered the fire at the church, when she returned with the children’s minister to pick up her car. The two women had left the church after a service to get something to eat.
“I had parked right up against the church, and when we got back, I noticed a little fire in the corner of the church. When I looked up, I asked her, ‘Is the church on fire?’ She said ,‘Oh, my God! Yes!’ We both called 911,” Carr said. “I thought it was a small flame and they would get it put out quickly, but it took awhile for the fire department to get there.”
The fire occurred at a time when the city’s fire department was not staffed because a failed levy resulted in nine firefighters being laid off. Although a dozen area fire agencies assisted city firefighters, extinguishing the blaze was complicated further by the lack of fire hydrants in the area.
It took several hours to get the fire under control.
“We just watched the building burn to the ground. It was an emotional moment for us. We cried and prayed, knowing that God would get us through it,” Carr said. “We’re here today because of faith and love and believing God.”
For more information about the church, call 330-608-4740.