CHATHAM — On Sunday, Charles Jenkins, pastor of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, told his 4,000-member congregation that it received its biggest donation yet — a new church building.
"God has given Fellowship a big sign. Congratulations. You are the brand new owner of 8522 S. Lafayette. No mortgage, no debt," Jenkins said during worship service. "To God be the glory."
The vacant, 14.5-acre site is set to be redeveloped into a mixed-use complex, according to Jenkins. It would include up to seven retail stores, a restaurant, youth center and school at an estimated cost of $26 million.
The start and completion dates have not been set for the redevelopment project. It is not known when the church, now housed at 4543 S. Princeton Ave., will move into its new home.
The church property's previous owner, Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., is a national arts and crafts chain that has contributed to faith-based initiatives nationwide for many years.
Hobby Lobby spokesman Vincent Parker confirmed the donation to Fellowship.
Jenkins said he is forever grateful for receiving such a blessing.
“I offer my sincere gratitude to the Green Family [which owns Hobby Lobby] for their unparalleled generosity to Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church and our work in the city,” said Jenkins. “We are excited about this huge step and other amazing friends and partners who are already joining us on this meaningful and impactful journey to serve the inner city.”
Previously, the site was headquarters of Soft Sheen Products Co., sold in 1998 to L'Oreal by its founders, Edward and Betty Gardner. An honorary street sign at East 87th and Dobson streets was dedicated to the couple last summer.