A building reborn leads to a church birthed: 500 North launched amid the pandemic

The praise team leads worship at 500 North Church. Submitted photo

EDINBURGH — The once-dilapidated structure — which was nearly ready for a wrecking ball a little more than a year ago — at 500 N. Clay St. in Edinburgh looks bright and healthy again.

And that rebirth serves as a solid example of what God yearns to do with the weary, broken lives of the struggling.

Such is the message of the leaders of the new 500 North Church, a small assembly boldly launched amid a pandemic that shuttered churches earlier this year.

Pastor Derek Carpenter moved back to the area from Florida a few months ago, following a hurricane, to prepare to open the church and assume its head leadership role.

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“I saw it in shambles,” Carpenter said of the abandoned building that had fallen into disrepair. “But I never worried that I was making the right decision. I felt like like this would be a great place to minister to the people of Edinburgh.

“And we really felt that God had opened doors for us.”

Such open doors show that 11 new visitors — a fairly dramatic number for a small place — attended its second Sunday service recently on Aug. 9.

Therein lies the fruit of Carpenter’s evening neighborhood walks, casually greeting people and telling them of the new ministry spun off Columbus’ Flintwood Wesleyan Church. Forty members of Flintwood have transferred to the new church to get it off the ground, according to Flintwood Pastor Wes Jones.

“This is probably the ‘dumbest’ thing we’ve ever done in our lives, according to some (skeptical) people who would look at all that’s involved in a church planting,” Jones said with a laugh. “Most church planters probably would never tell you to do things the way we have necessarily done them.”

The process began about two years ago when the Wesleyan church in the Edinburgh building closed and roaming dogs, weeds and poison ivy took over the property. The Wesleyan district superintendent called Jones and asked if his church would want to expand to that site, but after he and other Flintwood members visited the structure, the church initially passed.

Then Jones and his son agreed to an urging from supervisors to mow the property to quell upset neighbors. God used the time to pull figurative weeds from Jones’ depressed view of the place.

“I just started seeing that whole area through God’s eyes,” Jones said. “It’s a really nice community.”

Eventually, Flintwood, which was averaging about 250 people attending per Sunday, boosted its budget by one-third to begin planning for the challenging work of birthing 500 North — unaware that the COVID-19 pandemic loomed. But, apparently, as the church members see it, someone forgot to tell God that such obstacles mattered.

Plus, earlier this year, Jones was involved in a serious fall that has resulted in other unplanned challenges such as surgeries and a long road of physical therapy and recovery.

“God has called us to be greater than just ourselves,” Jones said. “And our people have just really embraced that.”

Now, some $200,000 investment later to rehab the structure and a neighboring parsonage, Carpenter believes Edinburgh residents, including many who have told him they have no church home, are ready to embrace 500 North.

The pastor, who formerly served as Flintwood’s youth pastor a few years ago before moving away, said that part of the mission of 500 North is spiritually reproducing themselves so that others, in turn, can find God’s love and extend that to still more people.

“When people saw us restoring the building, people have become intrigued about what has been happening,” Carpenter said. “And we’ve been able to share with them what we feel that God has called us to do. So we have been here investing in people and looking for whatever ways that we can help them.”

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Birthed: Aug. 2 by Flintwood Wesleyan Church in Columbus.

Location: 500 N. Clay St. amid a residential area in Edinburgh.

Leader: Pastor Derek Carpenter.

Service time: 10 a.m. Sunday.

Information: Facebook page for 500 North Church.