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Former supermarket being transformed into church

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Posted at 7:00 AM, Feb 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-20 07:00:07-05

ALEXANDRIA, Ky. -- The Bridge Community Church of Northern Kentucky, a nondenominational church now meeting in Wilder, is renovating a long-empty Thriftway supermarket in Alexandria as its new home and plans to move in sometime this spring.

On Feb. 12, the church also agreed to lease 10,000 square feet of the 45,000-square-foot building to Ohio Valley Goodwill Industries to use as a thrift store, as WCPO.com previously reported.

The new sanctuary will seat 758, said the church’s pastor, Bo Weaver. Including facilities for youth and children, the entire building should accommodate more than 1,000 people at one time, he added.

The church, which now meets at 1019 Towne Drive in Wilder, now has about 600 attendees at Sunday services. None of them have said anything about the additional 6-mile drive they will have to make on Sunday morning, Weaver said.

“That doesn’t mean they are all going to show up, but they haven’t said anything,” he added.

It’s the second church that Weaver has successfully grown in Northern Kentucky. He spent his first 20 years as a pastor at Fellowship of Believers, a nondenominational church in Florence that is now a megachurch called 7 Hills Church.

Weaver stepped down as pastor of Fellowship of Believers in 2004, telling the congregation that he needed to work on his marriage with his wife, Jannie, who also did women’s ministry and outreach for the church. It was a difficult decision, he said, because they had started the church with just 12 people and nursed it into a thriving congregation.

“Ministry can be very consuming, especially when you’re just starting out,” Weaver said. “You look to God, but you know that God uses people, and you feel that pressure to make things happen and keep things going.”

After taking two years off to refocus and regroup, they concluded they couldn’t stop being pastors. “We love people, praying for people, caring for people and seeing them grow,” he said.

So in 2006, at 50 years old, Weaver started a second church, which initially met at the Marquis Event Center in Wilder, then moved to a renovated warehouse across the parking lot in December 2007.

In fall 2014, the church’s landlord notified the church that he needed the space the church was leasing, Weaver said. So the church began looking for a new home.

The former Thriftway store in Alexandria stands in the background at left as seen from Alexandria Pike. The structure has been purchased by The Bridge church and also will house a Goodwill store. (Google Maps)

The Thriftway building was available, Weaver said, but the owner wanted $4 million for the property. However, the owner was willing to take $1.1 million because a deal to buy the property had just fallen through and it had been empty for too long, Weaver said.

The church didn’t have the money to buy the building outright, but a longtime friend of Weaver’s offered to put up the money. Weaver told the church he needed money for a down payment and, without any advance preparation, raised $60,000 that same day.

“I’ve been a pastor for 30 years and I’ve never seen a response like we saw to this,” he said.

The congregation pledged $435,000 for the project, all of which has been paid. The church planned to close on a refinancing of the $2.2 million debt on the 9-acre property and the renovation with a local bank later this month, he said.

Church members also have donated labor for the project. Louie Morris, who owns Morris Heating and Cooling in Burlington, is serving as general contractor. Another member, Happy Wade, who renovated the church’s first building, is serving as the superintendent. And Wiseway Supply, which sells electrical and plumbing equipment, where a church elder works, has sold materials at cost.

“It’s very touching to see the way people have elected to get behind us and help us,” Weaver said.

That includes community members not associated with the church, such as Mayor Bill Rachford, who welcomed the Bridge to the city, Weaver said.

The building was becoming an eyesore, Rachford said, so he’s “tickled pink” that it will be used again. The Bridge is a very active congregation that will do much for the city, he said.

“From a tax standpoint, we will get little, but I am not going to argue with the good Lord when he wants to put a building someplace,” Rachford said.

Though the church won’t pay property tax, he said, its members will shop in Alexandria, eat there and buy gasoline there.

“I don’t see a downside,” Rachford said.

Southern Campbell County residents are already starting to visit the church in Wilder on Sunday mornings, Jannie Weaver noted.

“We are getting new visitors every week from this area,” she said.

At 60, Weaver didn’t expect to be building a new church, but if it’s what he’s called to do, he said, age shouldn’t be a factor.

“I’m as excited about the future as I’ve ever been,” he said.