ORLANDO – After nearly two decades of leasing worship space downtown, the non-denominational H2O Church in downtown Orlandosoon will have a home of its own.
Built in the mid-1950s, the former First United Methodist Church at 2113 E. South St. sat empty the past three years. But it is currently undergoing a $250,000 transformation and will become the new home of the H2O Church, as well as a community gathering place for residents and others in Orlando’s Milk District.
“We love downtown and we’re very excited to be able to stay here,” said the Jim Poorman, one of the Pastors of H2O Church. “We’re just really fortunate to be gifted this church with a new neighborhood being built around it.”
The congregation’s good fortune came earlier this year in the form of a “gift” from a group of church members headed by Marisol Santiago Soderstrom, John Kurtz and Roger Soderstrom, Jr. after their real estate firm coordinated the purchase of nearly five acres that included the property the former Methodist church was built upon. The buyers are in the process of selling a 3.87-acre parcel to Surrey Homes USA for the construction of 31 townhomes and nine single-family Craftsman-style homes.
Since its inception 19 years ago, H2O Church has held services at the former EDGE/ 8 Seconds country western bar before moving to their current venue, in The Abbey below the Sanctuary condominiums, six years ago.
Many of H2O’s parishioners, some between 20 and 40 years of age, have little or no church background and, according to Poorman, would never have set foot in a traditional church. He refers to them as being “spiritually curious.” And, that fits perfect with Poorman and his Co-Pastors John Hever and Steve Reed.
“John, Steve and I didn’t grow up in Christian homes. We don’t have church backgrounds. So, we know what it’s like to be on the outside looking in,” he said. “We think people appreciate a place where they can explore what they believe.”
Poorman said he has shared plans and drawings with some of the neighbors, who said they were dismayed to have looked at the deteriorating Spanish/Mediterranean-style structure with overgrown shrubs for the last few years.
“They’re very excited too,” he said. “We want them to be able to look out their windows and see something attractive.”
“We’ve had between 40-50 people – church family and their friends – helping us the last couple of weekends cleaning and removing items that were left behind. We’ve hauled unusable items out and cleaned and finished the prep work for the renovation which will be completed by CDI Construction Development,” Poorman said, adding that beautiful stained-glass windows which were removed by the former owner now have been reinstalled.
Improvements to the church – which may be completed in early 2021 – will include a new roof, painting, stucco repairs to the exterior, new floors, new lighting, sound system and building a lobby with a coffee bar that can double as a meeting and work space for the neighborhood, Poorman said.
“We want the lobby to be a place where the community can just come and hang out and study, have business meetings or if they want to get a group together to watch a movie, an Orlando City Soccer game, hold a wedding, reception, concert or whatever, they can rent it out. We just want the facility to serve the residents of our downtown community.”
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