Persevering nomadic church finally reaches promised land
(May 26, 2002)
As a home missions church, Christian Life Center in Leominster, Mass.,
had searched for a permanent location in the city of 43,000 for five
Attendance rose and fell with each of the 10 previous relocations.
By 1995, the Assemblies of God church had met in a hotel, restaurant,
chapel, school, a lodge hall, tent and even a driveway. More than once,
resilient members had to call Pastor Steve Koroskenyi on Friday to find
out where the service would be held on Sunday.
Staying put: Members
of Christian Life Center have found a home.
Then, the congregation of 38 leased a 5,000-square-foot, well-situated
building. The church began making necessary renovations, with the intention
of buying the building. However, three years and $10,000 worth of improvements
later, the corporation that owned the property restructured, changed
personnel and sold the building to another party.
Faced with this disappointment, members of Christian Life Center began
praying and fasting. God began to intervene. Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella
heard the news and called the president of the corporation. Listening
to his advisers, the president sent a check for $10,000 to reimburse
Christian Life Center for its investment in the building.
With this seed money in hand, the congregation moved into yet another
rented facility: the citys unoccupied YMCA building, which had
been on the market for seven years despite $400,000 worth of renovations.
Originally built in 1923 as the Rialto Theater, the 40,000-square-foot
edifice is situated prominently in downtown Leominster near the post
office and city hall. Although the $700,000 asking price was beyond
the churchs means, Koroskenyi began to negotiate with the owner.
"Our credibility was not in the amount of money we had, but in the
commitment of our members," Koroskenyi says. "Almost everyone in the
church has come to the Lord through the church rather than through transfer
Needing to sell the building, the owner agreed to a price of just $225,000,
provided the church pay $75,000 down and another $15,000 in 18 months.
He also agreed to a second mortgage on the property of $135,000 spread
over 30 years.
The church raised an additional $17,000 from friends, churches and
strangers seeking to save the historic building from the wrecking ball.
With a loan, Christian Life Center closed the deal in April 1999.
During the following 18 months, church members raised funds for the
pending balloon payment in creative ways, including yard sales, art
lessons, bake sales and working overtime. One man rented himself out
to play a trumpet serenade while a friend proposed marriage to his future
One week before the notes due date, the church still was $5,000
short, so the pastor and board called for a week of prayer. That Sunday,
congregants gave $5,800 to clinch the promise. Today, Christian Life
Center has 125 adherents. This year, Koroskenyi is drawing a salary
for the first time as the pastor.
"It isnt easy to build a church in the heart of central New England,"
Koroskenyi says. "There will be some discouragement and faith will be
tested, but if you persevere, God rewards those who diligently seek
Koroskenyi is assisted by his wife, Robin, who directs the youth ministry,
plus teenage sons Anthony, Alexander and Andrew, who write and play
music as well as lead worship at the church.