KENT, Oh. (BNc) by David R. Kenney — Christians from various congregations often travel to sing together in special events. The Friday Night Sing on July 25, in Kent, Ohio, was an extra special occasion.
The church in Kent meets at the building located at 319 South DePeyster Street and is in jeopardy of losing their place of worship.
City of Kent, Oh., to take building
The city of Kent passed a levy to expand its Safety Administration Building. The problem is that the location targeted to complete this project includes the property where this congregation has met for several years.
Governments (federal, state or local) may legally take private property, and reimburse the owner, under “eminent domain,” provided it can substantiate its claim that such an action is for the public use or “public good”. This power, eminent domain, is what the local government of Kent is exercising.
The government is required to provide the “fair market value” of the property to the owner. In the State of Ohio, if a mutually agreeable assessment of “fair market value” is not obtained, the owner may contest the decision. The mechanism for this impasse resolution is for the government to file lawsuit against the property owner which will be decided by a jury trial.
What is the greater good?
The situation reminds me of the term “juxtaposition,” which is laying an action side-by-side for comparison or contrast. Allow me, if you will, to explain this juxtaposition—the government wants to take the property owned by Christians for the “public good”.
It is a rather striking contrast as to which use of the property would better serve the “public good” — an expanded Safety Administration building designed to save lives, or a place of worship that specializes in the saving of lives and souls?
Although the building and property are not the church, there are many in the town and surrounding areas that are pondering that very question — should a church’s building and property be seized under “eminent domain”?
It is a significant question, particularly in our day! It is a situation that may generate all types of emotional responses.
Largest event to be the last singing?
So the recent Friday Night Sing was special. Who knows but it might be the last time this event will be held in this building? Christians, together with some who were aware of this incident, came together and sang songs, hymns and spiritual songs to each other and to God (Ephesians 5:19).
The building was packed with 148 in attendance. Those who had been a part of the congregation the longest stated it was the largest gathering in their history.
Interestingly, this building was built by the Church of the Brethren in 1900, but the church purchased the property in 1956. (The historical significance of the building is a factor in the equation, but has not stopped this action.)
The building also includes a balcony. People in the main auditorium and in the balcony and song leaders on the platform pressed in for a wonderful night of gospel singing that people on the street took notice and interest in.
Church takes the high road
From my vantage point, the congregation in Kent has taken the higher road on the matter. They do not want to lose the property unless “fair market value” is such that it can replace what they have now. In my opinion, that is a fair request.
The church has not been belligerent or mean-spirited throughout this process, from what I have seen. This has not gone unnoticed by the community.
In fact, several have been made aware of the church and her plight, which provides opportunity to proclaim the gospel in such a way that may have never been possible before in the city of Kent.
This is something the church at Kent hopes to be one of the good things to come out of this difficulty.
What you can do
What can you do? First, pray for this congregation.
Second, pray that this situation not only works out for the church but also that those who have never had reason to look at the plea of churches of Christ to follow the New Testament will give such a plea an honest investigation.
Third, pray for our communities and governments that they will consider having Jesus Christ and his followers, Christians, as a blessing, not only for our communities, but our nation, too. It seems, at times, that this blessing is being overlooked or taken for granted.
This article is not intended to cast the government of the city of Kent in a negative light, but to challenge us all to think on these matters.
To visit this church’s web site and read more about this story, go here.
David Kenney works with the Wadsworth, Oh, congregation and conducts the “Light from Above” television program, which can be seen on gbntv.org.