Walnut Hill church is coming to New Milford
A cry of "Hallelujah" could well be going out these days from the Walnut Hill Community Church congregation in Bethel.
The final stage of the evangelical church's purchase of the former Christian Life Fellowship church property at 19 Dorwin Hill Road in New Milford has been completed.
A satellite campus of Walnut Hill church will be opened by September at the New Milford site, with a vacation Bible school program planned for this summer.
"This is exciting," said the Rev. Clive Calver, senior pastor of Walnut Hill. "Walnut Hill serves eight communities. We have over 3,000 members. This campus and the two other campuses we have opened give us a little more space."
Walnut Hill Community Church has also opened sites in Seymour and Waterbury, with a fourth planned at a site to be determined.
The 5.7 acre Dorwin Hill Road property, with its gymnasium and church, was purchased and will be renovated with $900,000 in donations raised from Walnut Hill's congregation.
"We want the gymnasium attached to the campus, and I want this campus to serve the Greater New Milford community," Rev. Calver said. "Initially, the New Milford campus will be financially supported with funds coming from the entire church community."
Christian Life Fellowship had struggled for years to find a buyer for the Dorwin Hill Road property.
In 2009, the mortgage holder on the property, Mooring Capital Fund, brought a foreclosure action against Christian Life Fellowship, and the company held a public auction in 2011 to sell the property.
Christian Life Fellowship is now holding services at 48 Anderson Ave. in New Milford, in a building shared with Berkshire Publishing.
"We have just physically moved to a new building," the Rev. Chris Sakis said in a prepared statement. "I will be continuing my community outreach and going forward with the ministry."
Walnut Hill Community Church has between 200 to 300 New Milford area residents already attending services at the main church in Bethel, said the Rev. Adam DePasquale, pastor of regional development for the church.
"We call ourselves a church with many campuses," he added. "The services in Bethel are brought by video to our outreach campuses, with live preaching at each campus once a month."
In New Milford, such programs as support groups for those divorced and for new mothers will be offered. A youth program and a Sunday school program will focus on "presenting the teachings of Jesus in a fun way, in a positive and constructive environment," Rev. DePasquale said.
The Rev. Brian Prue has been assigned to be the pastor of the New Milford campus.
"If Walnut Hill engages in the same ways that Christian Life Fellowship has for outreach into our community," he opined, "this will be a definite plus."
"I believe mega-churches like Walnut Hill and Faith Church see themselves as reaching out to those not already attending church," Rev. Moran added. "I'm hoping we can work ecumenically in a way that is helpful and useful to our community."