GASTON – A small Gaston church that appeared in need of a miracle to keep from being converted back into a tavern has apparently been blessed with one.
The papers were signed yesterday, a joyful Michael Osborne, pastor of Gaston Community Church, said Thursday.
Site of a former tavern that the state shut down, the church – which now also includes a coffee shop and community center featuring exercise equipment and a library – moved into the building in September, as members began scrubbing it clean and hauling out trash.
By mid-March, however, the churchs effort to buy the building stalled, leading to a threat by the state to repossess it for sale to someone who planned to turn it back into a bar.
Thats when Osborne put out a call for help.
The day a story about the situation appeared in the Star Press, townsfolk began approaching Osborne with donations.
One memorable donor, a kid of about 8 who shoots pool at the church/community center after school, brought him $3.
He said, This is all I got, but itll help, Osborne recalled with emotion. Within three days, I had $5,000.
What pushed the effort over the top, though, was the generosity of an anonymous man who was born in Gaston and shared Osbornes notion of what the town did, and didnt, need.
A new tavern?
He said, No, thats not gonna happen, the pastor recalled.
Even then, the state was threatening to pull the plug on the deal. Thats when the churchs benefactor anted up the remaining $31,000 of the original $45,000 that was needed to buy the building Wednesday.
The church is going to buy it back from the man on contract.
Osborne said all this has moved so quickly of late, the tiny congregation of 17 hasnt had a chance to plan a celebration.
Still, the pastor knows what he is celebrating.
The state no longer has any control over the building at all, he said.