Geared up with masked staff and volunteers, Free Chapel Braselton welcomed around 1,200 people to its first service on Jan. 10.
“It could not have gone better than we planned,” said Blake Hamon, campus pastor. “It was so incredible to see so many people from the community and the amount of visitors who had never been to Free Chapel before.”
Hamon said the campus abides by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, requiring visitors who aren’t small children to wear masks, and administering temperature checks with staff and volunteers before they enter. The campus also distributes free masks to those who don’t have one.
For services, Hamon said people congregate in the sanctuary — which includes a 975-seat auditorium — and the four additional overflow spaces. He said each room is limited at around 30% capacity. Ushers are also tasked with directing people to their seats to ensure social distancing.
Hamon said worship team members will remove their masks while singing and playing instruments, but are at least 20 feet away from those in the first row.
“Nobody had caught COVID, and everyone was safe and had an incredible time,” Hamon said. “We facilitate everybody in the building and social distance.”
If the location finds itself exceeding its visitor threshold, he said the Braselton campus will launch a second service.
When people enter the 160,000-square-foot church, located at 2001 Cherry Drive in Braselton, they’ll see a spacious main lobby. Two rooms are connected to the area, one for the children’s ministry and the other for the infants’ ministry.
Hamon said the building has a “connection lounge” used for signing people up for small groups, ministries or finding out more about the church. This room also seats the sanctuary’s overflow.
So far, he said less than half of the facility has been renovated. Before transforming into a Free Chapel campus, Hamon said it was used by the congregation of Northeast Church. The building originally served as a Mitsubishi parts distribution center.
Because the previous church had already built a sanctuary and allocated office spaces, Hamon said Free Chapel’s renovation work proved minimal.
“We’re grateful to our team, but also the church before us,” he said.
Each Sunday, Senior Pastor Jentezen Franklin’s sermons are streamed live to the campus, which begins its service at 11 a.m.
When it comes to Hamon’s role as campus pastor, he oversees all volunteer teams, small groups, discipleship ministries and community outreach.
Before finding Free Chapel, Hamon pursued a business degree at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee with the aim of becoming a financial consultant.
Three months before graduating from college, the now campus pastor, said he felt called into ministry.
“I met with three gentlemen, who I looked up to a lot,” Hamon said. “One of them informed me about Free Chapel.”
Twelve years ago, Hamon said he took a step of faith and moved to Gainesville to begin serving Free Chapel as an intern.
In just over two months, an opportunity presented itself, and Hamon joined the congregation as its full-time youth pastor.
Since then, he has served in multiple capacities, more recently helping oversee Free Chapel’s ministry training program associated with Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida.
In November 2019, Hamon said he was informed by executive staff that he had been accepted as the Free Chapel Braselton campus pastor.
Now approaching his third service since opening, Hamon said he has devoted himself to getting to know every individual at the campus.
“I want to help them discover what it is that they’re gifted at and what they feel a purpose to do, and then help train, equip and empower them to fulfill that mission,” he said. “That’s my goal.”