Grace Center of Hope
When: 9:15 a.m. Sunday School, 10:30 Sunday worship; 7:30 Bible Study, Thursday
Where: 419 Bradford St., Gainesville
More info: 770-851-5558, www.rwwm.org
Upcoming events: 3 p.m. Oct. 17 several ministers are scheduled to be licensed at the church; 3 p.m. Nov. 14 is the church anniversary celebration.
Cruising down Bradford Street on the way to a Christian youth camp one Saturday morning, the Rev. Robert Washington saw the vacant church on the left and decided to pull into the parking lot.
The owner of the former church building near Forrest Avenue was throwing some trash away and Washington struck up a conversation. Before the conversation was over, Washington was moving his church to the Bradford Street location, right in the heart of Gainesville, from Buford.
"I had called a Realtor and they mentioned the location," said Washington, originally from Mobile, Ala. "This spot gave us multiple avenues to give more to the community, to do more with the youth, and I like how the facility is separated.
"The original church model was built in a neighborhood, so it was designed for people in those communities to go to church in that community ... that was the whole purpose of the church. We want to get back to some of the old ways of doing things."
Grace Center of Hope, which had its dedication on Sept. 12, has had success with the ministry and has between 15 and 30 churchgoers each Sunday.
"We've had several visitors come in ... we have something three nights a week," he said.
The ministry is a nondenominational, multicultural ministry and Washington, along with wife Wanda Ray Washington, are just hoping to impact and empower the Gainesville community.
"Some people have been wounded by the church or someone in the church; we are about restoration and rebuilding," Washington said. "And getting people to know you have a purpose and a worth and that God chose you because he made you, and he wants you to be a diamond and to be polished."
Washington has been a pastor for 12 years and has lived in Georgia for 20.
"I am very active in the community. I'm a chaplain at Northeast Georgia Medical Center and Pilgrim's Pride, so I do a lot in the community and make myself visible and available for people," he said.
Wanda, also a licensed minister and heavily involved in the youth and women's ministry at Grace, said she is really impressed with the community response.
"We have been on this walk for sometime, but now we've branched out in an area that we aren't that familiar with. It has been great and beyond my imagination. Everything is coming together, so it is truly a faith walk. We've had donations from people offering to pay the rent."
In the next few months Wanda's goal is just to get more people in the community involved in the church.
"I hope that we are able to get people involved, especially those that are unchurched in the area," said Wanda, a teacher at South Hall Middle School. "We just want to try to impact the community, meet the needs of the people and open ourselves so they will come and join a church that is willing to offer something that they want to accept, too."
The Washington's three sons also are an important part of church activities. Son Robert handles all the media for church services and Adam and Ryland are the praise team.
"The biggest blessing is just to see the hand of God behind the ministry," said Washington, a former Marine.
"During the whole transition I have heard God's voice saying this is where I'm supposed to be and ever since then, there has been nothing but favor shown to this ministry. I try to go before God weekly and hear what he wants me to give the people."