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Hall County Fire Services officials have confirmed they are working a reported drowning in the area of Sunrise Cove Marina, near Oakwood.
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McEver Road United Methodist Church finally finds its new home
McEver Road United Methodist, at 3606 McEver Road in Oakwood, is one of 10 churches forming a coalition to provide support to foster care families. An information meeting about becoming a foster parent or volunteering to help will be from 4-6 p.m. Sunday, May 1, at First Baptist Church in Gainesville. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Despite a potential split among the denomination, McEver Road United Methodist Church is moving ahead with its plans to build a new church.

The church closed on its new property Jan. 24, something it wasn’t able to do at the last location it proposed. The church pulled plans after Flowery Branch city officials opposed the move, even though the City Council gave its initial OK for a rezoning that would have allowed the church to build on the 11.3-acre site off of McEver Road at Gainesville Street.

Now, in its new location, the Rev. Rob Bruce said, “It is a better piece of property than what we were looking at.”

“Things worked out for the best,” he added. “Where some doors closed on the other property, even more opened on this one.”

The church is taking over almost 28 acres at 5226 McEver Road in Oakwood at the corner of J White and McEver Roads. There’s a 5,000-square-foot home on the property that is included in the sale and will remain there. It’s a property Bruce said the church has been interested in for about three years.

“It's more than enough property for us,” Bruce said. “We're not going to have to move a whole lot of dirt or anything like that, and then it had the plus of having a house that's really nice that's on the property and we'll be able to use it as part of our campus as well, so that was an added bonus.”

The church is in its early stages of design for the new church it will build, but Bruce knows he wants to have an outdoor fireplace where people can gather along with a first-century, outdoor oven.

“In the first century, the women gathered together to bake bread and that's where they had a lot of community,” Bruce said. “So we're going to do that for families. Somehow use it to gather people and teach them how to make bread and bake it there.”

Plans for the inside of the church include a large room that serves as a fellowship hall and worship center that can seat about 350.

“The problem was that we'd outgrown the space that we had,” Bruce said. “We were running out of parking and the building really didn't meet our vision of creating community. It was more inward focused.”

Creating community and planting its new roots in a place where “all that new growth is” will be the focus at the new location.

It’s about three miles south of where the church is now. At the new property, Bruce said the church is looking at developing about 10 acres and selling the rest to a developer who’s showing interest in it.

It’s a big move for the church, but Bruce said the congregation unanimously voted for it. It was much of the same with the Flowery Branch campus it had planned, but Bruce said there were some issues — but no hard feelings — with the developer’s designs.

“He had some specifics in design that we just didn't agree on,” Bruce said.

Ultimately, he said, that’s why they backed out.

Now, with a new location and new plans, Bruce is hoping things go off without a hitch. Even with a possible split in the denomination, he said the church isn’t concerned. It hasn’t affected plans at all.

“We may split, we may not, but that has no effect on what we're doing right now,” Bruce said. “It's business as usual. We're making disciples for the transformation of the world. That's what Jesus called us to do and that's what we're doing.”

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