The Winter Garden church has relocated to a larger space on West Colonial Drive and is ready to demonstrate the ripple effect in the community.
It takes someone with a grand vision to turn a former flea market space and appliance store into a church — especially if the storefront’s interior has a leaking roof and vegetation growing from the curling floor tiles.
But that is precisely what Renaut van der Riet and his team at Mosaic Church have done.
The congregation of the 14-year-old church celebrated its first Sunday in the new space Dec. 10, and it was quite the “welcome home” affair. In the first two services, more than 3,000 people — including about 900 children elementary-school age and younger — walked through the doors of the new Mosaic Church, located in the Winter Garden Regional Shopping Center on West Colonial Drive.
“It was awesome, it was energetic, it was full of life,” van der Riet said of the first Sunday. “Everyone was like, ‘We are home.’”
The new church location is designed with open space in mind but with inviting features that don’t overwhelm guests.
“When you walk in … everything in front of you shouts ‘Relax,’” van der Riet said. “If you put your head up, you can see where the kids check in, you can see the sanctuary, you can see the coffee bar. … We wanted it to be easy and comfortable.”
There is an industrial feel to the space, with its concrete floors and neutral tones. A giant concrete “tree” welcomes folks, as do seating areas with sofas, small high-top tables and a coffee bar.
Greenery descends from ceilings and light fixtures to remind people of God’s presentation of seed and vegetation and how they grow and spread. And there are images of ripples throughout the church campus, further reminding people to change the world one small ripple at a time.
To the left is MIX, a space for fifth- and sixth-graders that also doubles as a smaller sanctuary for the Latino service on Thursday nights.
To the right is Mosaic Kids, for children from birth through fourth grade. The Kid City space resembles downtown Winter Garden, with a mural of outlined Plant Street buildings and bicycle wheels representing the West Orange Trail. Children enter through what looks like the downtown clock tower. Individual rooms segregate the different age groups.
In the center is the sanctuary, purposely neutral in color, van der Riet said.
“All of its theming and vibrance comes from the technology that we control, so we can make the sanctuary feel any way we want,” he said. “On Sunday, that space is anything but neutral. It’s really fun.”
“When we walked in here the first time we weren't allowed to come in without a face mask,” van der Riet said. “That's how bad this place was.”
The 78,000-square-foot space sat empty for seven years. The roof leaked rainwater throughout the building, and mold and plant life actually were growing out of the floor tiles.
Prior tenants included Appliance Direct, Value Mart and Zayres.
Church leaders saw past the dank, moldy mess and bought the space. Currently, 50,000 square feet is in use, the pastor said, with the remaining 28,000 square feet to be used for future expansion.
Mosaic was operating in cramped quarters in its former space in Oakland. The church teams were holding seven services just to accommodate its growing congregation. Fire codes limited the number of children who could be in the nursery. Knees touched pew backs in the sanctuary.
“Now we have enough space to create conversation and community,” van der Riet said. “At the other place, it was all logistics. We had to move people through because of logistics. Here we have space and couches and people can relax and feel like they’re home.”
The pastoral team is excited about its first Christmas Eve service in the new location. Four services will be offered: 3:02, 4:32, 6:02 and 11:02 p.m.
“We love Christmas around here at this church,” van der Riet said. “December is one of our favorite months.”
The expanded space gives church leaders a chance to really showcase the true meaning of Christmas.
“What I love most about this building is that we surprise and delight people,” van der Riet said. “We want people to walk in and be surprised and delighted.”