One of the things you’ll hear from LifeSpring Church is that they are “For Smithfield.”
“We’ve always believed that the presence of a local church should make the community it’s in better as a result of our existence,” said lead pastor Dillon Schupp. “And we believe that the best chance for that belief to become reality is for a church to be visibly located in the community it’s trying to reach.”
Following the Aug. 7th Town Council meeting in Smithfield, LifeSpring is going to have that exact opportunity very soon.
The Smithfield Town Council voted 6-1 to approve an amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) that allows churches to exist in shopping centers. Councilman Dr. David Barbour voted against the amendment saying that while he supported churches he did not think they were the right fit in retail spaces.
Town staff including Town Attorney Bob Spence had recommended the amendment be approved after a review of the UDO showed churches were not being treated equally, as required by the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA). For example, Smithfield’s UDO provided preferential zoning treatment to a club or bar occupying the same space over a house of worship. The amendment brings Smithfield into compliance with the RLUIPA.
Following the amendment approval, the council unanimously approved LifeSpring’s application for a special use permit to allow the church to move into the Smithfield Commons Shopping Center at 1258 N. Brightleaf Blvd. next to Office Max. Since 2016, the church has met each Sunday morning at Johnston Community College.
“We’re beyond excited for the opportunity we have to move into a permanent facility,” Pastor Schupp stated. “We’re grateful for the seriousness with which the Council approached this matter and their willingness to open up this door for us. We’re especially thankful for Stephen Wensmen, Smithfield’s Planning Director, who has walked with us through every step of the process. ”
The church will have up to 176 seats and there are just enough parking spaces at Smithfield Commons to meet parking requirements for the church as well as Office Max. Smithfield Mayor Andy Moore expressed concern about adequate parking should the church grow more or Office Max should leave and another retailer requiring more parking occupy their retail location. “I’m in favor of churches but do have concerns over parking.”
Permanent Home Will Allow Ministry, Outreach To Expand
A permanent home will, according to Pastor Schupp, enable LifeSpring to expand the scope of its ministry to the community.
For instance: Last year, LifeSpring spear-headed up an effort – in conjunction with Smithfield-Selma schools – called Generosity Feeds which provided 10,000 meals to children in need in the Smithfield-Selma area over Christmas Break. They’ll be doing the same thing this year, with a goal of providing 20,000 meals.
With a permanent facility, Pastor Schupp says the potential to serve in greater ways can be almost unlimited.
LifeSpring has signed a 69 month lease for the property, occupying 4 of the 6 retail storefront spaces at Smithfield Commons. They had previously met at Johnston Community College where they had to set up and tear down their worship facilities each Sunday. Schupp said by having a permanent home Sunday mornings would now be a lot less labor intensive.
“This is going to be a tremendous move for us and we believe it’ll make us tremendously more effective as a church and will help us make an even greater difference here in Smithfield. We’ll be able to minister to teenagers, families, those in financial distress, and provide opportunities for those in need- things we’ve wanted to do, but have been unable to because those things require space.
“With a new home, we’ll be able to help more people- and that’s why we do what we do.”