New church kicks off services on Sunday at historic site that has been vacant for 2 years
North Point Chapel will work to preserve building, with bigger focus on serving community
ALBION – The former United Methodist Church building in Albion, a historic site more than 150 years old, will be reopened for church services this Sunday.
The church has been closed for two years since the United Methodists left the building and went to Christ Church, which is owned by the Episcopal church. The two congregations share the site for services.
The United Methodists left their building, facing a daunting challenge, an estimated $1 million to fix a roof that is supported with wooden beams in the sanctuary. The congregation put the building up for sale.
North Point Chapel thinks God still has a plan for the building, which includes many stunning stained-glass windows, a pipe organ and space for more than 250 people.
“I walked in here and I just dropped,” said Mike Outten, pastor of North Point.
It was the windows or the architecture that stunned Outten. It was all of the empty seats. He imagined the sanctuary full of earnest Christians. The church, like so many in the United States, seems way too big for the congregations today.
“There used to be people who sat in these seats and believed in Jesus Christ,” Outten said. “I look around and I see 250 saints singing to God.”
North Point Chapel will open the building to the public for coffee at 10 a.m. this Sunday, followed by a church service at 10:30.
The service will be in the Sunday School wing of the church, in what was a double classroom. Outten said the space could fit about 75 to 80 people.
He will preach the sermon and the church’s contemporary music team will lead in worship.
“We’re here to meet people where they’re at,” Outten said today, giving a tour of the church. “Jesus didn’t look at people’s exterior, but at their hearts. This building is just a tool. We will show people that we care for them and love them.”
North Point is a new church that has been meeting since last April at the Arnold Gregory Office Complex on South Main Street. About 20 people have been attending services at Arnold Gregory.
The church is part of the Southern Baptist Convention. North Point has the support of the High Point Community Church in Pembroke and the Ridge Wood Bible Church in Lockport on Route 104. High Point is the church that paid for fireworks in Albion on July 5, as well as hot dogs and family activities for four years until 2015.
North Point was active at last year’s Strawberry Festival, running a face painting booth and doing a lot of the garbage cleanup. They were a big boost to the festival’s volunteers.
Outten, a Gasport resident, is a third-generation bricklayer who had his own construction company. Northern Exposures Inc. is now run by his son.
Outten felt a call to the ministry and took on-line theology courses from Liberty University for five years. He did his coursework in the mornings form 5 to 8 a.m., went to work, and did his course reading at night. He graduated in 2014.
He believes in the power of God to transform lives, and neighborhoods. He sees many vacant houses in Albion, or homes in need of significant repair. He would be interested in the church helping with neighborhood revitalization, acquiring some houses, fixing them up, and selling to families.
He is open to where God wants to lead North Point. But Outten said he didn’t initially feel that way. He thought his ministry would be in Medina. Outten thought North Point was destined for that village. He would stop in that community, and walk the streets, praying for the residents.
God, however, had a different plan for the new pastor, Outten said.
Two of his sons have taken their driver’s tests in Albion, starting at a spot next to the former United Methodist Church at the corner of East State and Platt streets. Outten’s wife called him both times, to tell him about the glorious church edifice.
Two years ago, while their son was taking his driver’s test, Mrs. Outten noticed the church building was for sale. Her husband was reluctant. He was still thinking Medina for the new church.
But he was confronted with a passage from the Bible in Philippians 2:14-16: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.”
Outten said he needed to “cease his grumbling and complaining” and be open to what God had in store for Albion and the North Point Chapel.
“I realized that God was calling me here,” he said.
Outten looked at sites in Albion for the church. He didn’t want to be in an office building. Other sites, the former OTB and building where NAPA Auto Parts was located on Hamilton Street, seemed too costly, he said.
He was drawn to the United Methodist building. North Point is still waiting for the sale to go through. The two churches have agreed on a price and contract, but a final OK needs to given by the Attorney General’s Office. That was expected in January.
Outten said he has a plan for stabilizing the roof. The sanctuary will be off limits for the short term. First the church is working on the classrooms and office. Outten said the building won’t be forsaken.
“It’s going to be a lot of work,” the pastor said. “God wants us to bring it back. We won’t do it ourselves. The Lord will be our strength.”