CLEARWATER — The dream of owning their own building will have to be deferred for two Clearwater congregations who had hoped to purchase the former Woodlawn Church of God in Clearwater.
Count It All Joy Church of Deliverance, led by Pastor Christopher Bennett, and Restoration Village Ministries, led by Pastor Nathaniel Ramsey, had been paying $2,100 a month to rent space in two buildings on the church's campus at 845 Woodlawn St.
They held fundraisers and struggled to raise the $1.2-million needed. But last month, the two congregations were told to leave.
"We've given them 10 months to obtain financing, and they just weren't able to do it," said Pastor Randy Morris, whose Harvest Temple congregation owns the buildings. "Our expenses were much greater than our income, so we had to make other arrangements there. We just could not financially keep providing the property at such a reduced price."
The buildings on the Woodlawn Street campus became available in 2006 when Woodlawn Church of God merged with Harvest Temple and moved to Largo.
Morris said the space will be occupied by the Woodlawn Community Academy, the church's K-12 school.
The two congregations moved out at the end of June, a sour end to the story for Bennett.
"We (were) involved heavily in that community," Bennett said. "It was a painful decision for us to leave."
His congregation now operates out of an 800-square-foot storefront on N Myrtle Avenue.
Ramsey said he didn't want to talk about the issue because he was trying to put it behind him.
At a recent neighborhood meeting, rumors spread that the Church of Scientology had purchased the property.
Morris flatly denied that.
"I have never had any contact with the Church of Scientology or any of its subsidiary schools or associations," Morris said.
Church of Scientology spokeswoman Pat Harney said she "never heard" about that church and there was nothing to the rumor.
Jonathan Abel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4157.