By LINDA M. LINONIS
In May, Bishop Chorrethers Magellon Jenkins preached about the journey of life to members at Grace Evangelistic Temple Church.
The journey for pastor and congregation encountered a major detour when a fire next door to the church located at 1026 Shehy St. occurred May 12. The fire spread to the church building and destroyed it.
A Vindicator story the next day quoted Bishop Jenkins: “At this moment, nothing’s going through my mind. I’m numb.”
In a follow-up story, Bishop Jenkins admitted the fire was “most devastating.”
The pastor and congregation were uncertain about rebuilding or what direction to take.
In June, Bishop Jenkins was standing on the East Side property, where the church building had been leveled, and came across a piece of a burned page of the Bible. He said he could make out the words from 2 Kings 6, “Let us go, we pray thee ...”
Bishop Jenkins said he took that as a sign from God.
“It gave me hope. I knew I would go where the Lord leads,” he said.
Not long after, the pastor said, the journey continued when he was traveling on Mahoning Avenue and saw the for-sale sign at the former Mahoning United Methodist Church.
He stopped, got the contact number for the realty company and called.
“I got the keys on July 28,” Bishop Jenkins said.
The journey has brought Bishop Jenkins and congregation to the first service at the new site planned at 11 a.m. Sunday.
A community gathering will be Aug. 9 to introduce the church to the area.
Though he received support from congregants, Bishop Jenkins said the most touching and motivating for him came from children.
“I preached to others about hope, faith, perseverance and joy,” he said.
When the church burned, he said his own hope met an “abrupt end.” “We lost everything in the fire,” he said.
His role was preaching to others — until the words of children affected him.
“I had felt depressed and oppressed. ... I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fire,” he said.
Then encouraging words came from his great-grandson, Corday Magellon Jenkins, 6; from a member’s child who wanted to check on him, and from the child of a former member who had relocated.
“God spoke to me through them,” he said, noting the children said everything would be ok.
The bishop and the 100-member congregation took the leap of faith and bought the church building.
It is the third location; before Shehy, the church was located on Jacobs Road.
“My mindset was for something smaller,” Bishop Jenkins said.
But, he admitted he and church members were already envisioning how the space of 53,000 square feet may be used.
The building includes the basement with seven classrooms; main floor with sanctuary, parlor, kindergarten room, nursery, two classrooms; and second floor with fellowship hall and other space.
“Our mission is to bring hope and salvation,” he said. “We want to reach into the community,” he said.
Some possibilities include day care, afterschool program and computer lab.
“We want to help children,” he said.
Bishop Jenkins said members are going door-to-door in the surrounding neighborhoods to “talk to people about the needs.”
A food pantry might be one option.
The church is in the planning stages for activities.
Bishop Jenkins said the congregation is “excited” about the move and possibilities at the new location on the West Side.
He founded the church 22 years ago. It is nondenominational, he said, but emphasized it’s “part of the body of Christ.”
The church has a women’s group, young women’s group, deacons who handle church finances and operations and elders and a children’s ministry with children’s church.
Bishop Jenkins grew up in the city and moved to Cleveland when he was 18. “I went to school and was blessed there,” he said.
He taught at St. Thomas Aquinas School and St. Paul Lutheran Church, where he also was in the ministry. “But the Lord was calling me back to Youngstown,” he said.
A home, job and church building materialized through various circumstances.
His wife, Stephanie, also is in ministry, as are their two sons; they also have two daughters.
The new church slogan is “Grace ... God’s Gateway of Hope.”
Bishop Jenkins said the new site on the West Side gives the church a fresh start to fulfill the slogan spiritually and practically.