The five-year-old Winter Garden church will begin the new year in a new, larger location on downtown Plant Street.
“The heart of Jesus in the heart of Winter Garden.”
Pastor David Netzorg said that motto sums up Emmaus Church and its plan for 2017.
The pastor, who started Emmaus five years ago and preached the Word of God from a leased pulpit at Next Community Church, is ready for his church’s next chapter — a new year in a new location.
Emmaus Church is moving its operation to the Garden Theatre in downtown Winter Garden, and the first church service there will be at 10 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 8.
“The first sermon will be on Passover, and Jesus is the Passover lamb,” Netzorg said. “I think the first sermon will go well with our name.”
Netzorg chose the name Emmaus for his church because it parallels the story of Jesus’s walk to Emmaus following his rise from the dead. Jesus walked with two followers from Jerusalem but didn’t reveal who he was until they broke bread together in Emmaus.
“He walks with us in our lives and then reveals himself to us and eats with us at the Lord’s table,” he said.
A LARGER SPACE
Emmaus Church has about 80 members, and Netzorg wants to see that number grow. He felt this was the opportunity for that after Alauna Friskics, from the Garden Theatre, approached him about holding church services there.
The idea of offering morning services intrigued Netzorg; while at the Next campus, Emmaus had to meet in the evening because of a conflict with Next’s services.
“We are a small church, and the theater contacted us,” he said. “We were kind of surprised because we are this obscure church across from the Maryland Fried Chicken.
“We went over and looked at it and felt like it was too big for us,” he said. “We talked about it and prayed about it, and we felt like God was opening that door and leading us there. So we ended up telling them yes.”
In June, the church started a fundraising campaign called Answer the Call — a play on the theater term “curtain call” — to be able to purchase items like sound equipment and children’s furniture. More than $18,000 was raised in less than six months.
“We’re thrilled to be downtown,” Netzorg said. “We feel like it’s a big responsibility, as well, to be (a) visible church in the theater right in the middle of Plant Street. We want to serve the community well.”
The church signed a renewable one-year lease.
“We plan to stay there indefinitely,” he said. “We love that location. We’re all Winter Garden people. We love that theater.”
Once the church gets settled in its new location, it will concentrate on growing its congregation and outreach. Members already attend youth camps and mission trips and participate in community service, and those will continue.
Netzorg said he has all this new sound equipment and would like to increase the size of his church band, which currently has just a handful of musicians.
Originally from South Florida, Netzorg worked in the surf business before moving to Central Florida in 1992 to enter the seminary.
Contact Amy Quesinberry at [email protected].