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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Sep. 16, 2020 1 week ago

C/Life church finds new home in Winter Garden

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C/Life Orlando broke ground recently on its new location at the former Camping World RV dealership site along West Colonial Drive.
by: Danielle Hendrix Associate Editor

Seven years ago, C/Life Church started in a home in Windermere.

Now, the church has a new place to call home in Winter Garden. On Sept. 13, C/Life staff and members gathered at their new home base at 12201 W. Colonial Drive — previously the site of a Camping World RV dealership — to break ground on a milestone.

Pastor Jeremy Dunn and his wife, Missy, launched C/Life with about 10 people gathered in their living room. In January 2013, they began meeting at Chain of Lakes Middle School in Southwest Orange County, and most recently, they have been meeting at West Orange Cinema in Ocoee.

For seven years, church staff has been used to setting up before services on Sundays and tearing down afterward. With a space to call home now, that will be a thing of the past.

Dunn describes C/Life as a passionate, spirit-filled, multicultural church that loves to see God move and aims to bring people from different backgrounds together. He said church staff has been scouting for a building to call its own for a while. In fact, Dunn said, they’ve been told ‘no’ on at least 20 buildings in the past.

“It’s been a journey and a process,” he said. “It’s always been a desire of ours to have a home. The building is not something that we idolize — it’s just an opportunity for us to be able to reach more people, to help more people. We’ve been looking all over, got told ‘no’ a whole bunch, but every ‘no’ led us closer to God’s ‘yes.’” 

Dunn said the church first learned of the 5.44-acre property last summer, but the seller declined its first offer, and the property was sold to someone else. However, that deal fell through, and offers were considered once again. The church put together another bid package.

“I went to our team, and I said, ‘Hey, I want to do the biggest offer we can,’” he said. “My exact words were, ‘I want our offer to be in a place where God has to protect us or meet us in faith.’”

Eighteen hours later, Dunn received a phone call from Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis, who owned the property. Dunn said Lemonis told him that although C/Life had the lowest offer, he believed in their vision — and if they could close in 30 days, they could have the property.

“We got fully funded and closed in two weeks,” Dunn said. “It was an absolute miracle. God has been good to us, and that’s how we got here. It’s been a year of working through with architects and labs and interior designers and civil engineers, going through that whole process. We just got our site plan approval, just got our demo permit this week, so the back building’s coming down and the front building is being renovated.”

The existing front building and covered entrance are being renovated and brought up to the city’s code overlay district with an industrial chic style. The front building will serve as the kids’ and youth building. In the middle is a breezeway or canopy area, which the church will be modeling to match the aesthetic of downtown Winter Garden. 

The existing back building is being torn down, and a new one will be built in its place. That will house the sanctuary, audio/visual/lighting, a prayer room, offices and a foyer. Church staff hopes to have the new church campus completed and ready by Easter.

“(We want) to have a place that people can come to, find community and relationships,” Dunn said. “One of our statements is, ‘This is home,’ so our vision is to build a property that feels like home to everyone from all walks of life, from all backgrounds, all cultures. … We’ve been intentional from Day One that our church would be filled the presence of God and be filled with the people of God.”

Dunn describes his reaction to the new journey God is leading the church on in just two words: extreme gratitude. 

“We feel very honored to come into this city and to be able to partner with the great things that are already happening in this city,” he said.

Danielle Hendrix is the Associate Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She is a 2015 graduate of the University of Central Florida, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in world comparative studies. ...

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