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Nova Church first service delayed due to permit issues

The building’s exterior was painted to cover a mural.

Colleton Baptist Missionary Zane Brown’s hope for a place where people from all walks of life can worship within a relaxed and informal atmosphere was delayed Friday afternoon when the City of Walterboro shut down the renovation process.


Converting a bar into a church

“They shut us down, even to the point of making us take down the Nova Church sign that was on the front marquis,” Brown said. The first worship service at the new location of Nova Church, which will tentatively be located at 113 Santee Lane off South Jefferies Boulevard within a building that once housed bar-restaurant facilities, was to occur on Sunday, August 5.

Walterboro City Manager Jeff Lord said Monday the renovation work was put on hold because of safety concerns. “It was my understanding that they didn’t have the required permits. These permits allow us to inspect this type of work to make sure the work is up to our building codes. This is a church, and a church brings a lot of people together,” Lord said. He added that how quickly the renovation work continues is up to the church officials. He said when the application for the proper permits and the renovation plans have been completed and turned in to the city, the building can be inspected and the renovation work can continue.

(L to R) Volunteers Zane Brown, Patti Johnson, Ed Elsey, and Rosalind Walker.


Nova Church — a different church by design

Brown said when the renovations have been completed and the first service is held, it won’t be traditional in nature. “This church will be different by design. Most of our (the Colleton Baptist Association’s) churches are traditional in nature, and we decided to use a plan to deliver a different message.” Brown said. He added that the Nova Church was actually launched on January 8 at the Colleton Center on Hampton Street. His largest congregation at that location was on Easter Sunday, when 174 people attended the service, but added the congregation usually numbers at about 80.

Brown noted he first got the idea of moving the church’s location when he and his wife, Vicki, bought ice cream at McDonalds and were eating in the restaurant’s parking lot. “We looked up and saw a sign that read for sale or lease. “When I called the number, I found I was speaking to Miles Crosby. Not really knowing who he was talking to, he thought I was thinking about opening another bar, and when I told him that I wanted to locate a church there, he welcomed the idea.” He said the Baptist Association’s Vision Team, and that’s when the plan took form, and a two-year lease was negotiated.


A casual place of worship

Brown said that he and many other volunteers were working to renovate the empty building before the renovations were halted. He added  the completed interior that will more resemble a casual place of worship rather than a bar when completed. “We’ve done a lot of painting in here, because the original color was a dark brown.” Brown said lattice was placed along the bottom of a second-story balcony to meet safety standards. Some electrical work has also been done, and an awning will probably be erected over the nursery door for people to get their young children in without getting wet.

Brown noted, however, that many of the features that were in the bar will remain within the renovated building. “We’re going to leave the actual bar intact, and turn it into a coffee bar, complete with a professional barista.” Brown said the tables and chairs which will allow for the seating of about 140 people, and kitchen equipment that was also left in the building, will be utilized by the church. “If more people want to worship with us than we have room for, we can always have two services on Sunday,” he added.

A 52-inch television will also be placed high on a church wall so the congregation can better see what is occurring during the services and also to project song lyrics and announcements. Three smaller TVs will also be strategically placed on side walls for viewing purposes.  

Brown said the church will be divided into three sections. The section on the left, as one faces the church, will hold a nursery. The church’s mid-section will be used for young adult and adult worship, and the section on the right will be used as a Sunday school for younger children. Brown said that a sound-proof wall will be placed between the middle and right section of the church because the association doesn’t want the adult service to interfere with Sunday school classes.

When construction continues, Vicki will continue to work as project coordinator. When the renovations were in progress, she was at the building on a daily basis. “She’s a former school teacher, and she’s used to having her summers free.

Brown also said that the volunteers who have helped with the renovations have done a wonderful job and he appreciates all that they have accomplished. He added some of the World Changers who were in town two weeks ago also came by and helped with painting after they were through with renovation work for residents in need of assistance.


A church with dreams

“This will be a church that has some dreams. We want to impact the community, we want to start a feeding ministry and a food pantry,” Brown said. “We also want to focus on the missing generation. Many people under 40 are missing from church, so we’re trying to incorporate more contemporary activities. I wear jeans, Sperrys, and tee shirts at services. We have no dress code. We made a choice to do things differently. This is a choice for people who want a choice.”

Brown noted he is trying to bring back the people who haven’t been to church in many years, adding that if one person hasn’t been attending church, it also means that family members are also missing services.  

The building in which the church will tentatively be located was originally a warehouse or garage, according to the Reverend Daniel Cooper, who first rented the building for his Living Word Church in September of 1985. “It had a tin roof, and was wide open on both sides. There were two grease pits in the floor, and there was an old log truck trailer under the roof,” Cooper said.

Cooper noted his church was located at the Santee Lane location for four years. After that, it was decided that a new church would be built. “We couldn’t afford to continue to pay rent, and we thought that it would be cheaper to just build and make payments. But we enjoyed all four years there, and are glad that Nova Church is getting ready to go in there.”

It is rumored that since a church was first located on that property, it was hard for the bars located there later to make a go of things because the property was once Holy ground. Brown smiled when he heard about this, saying “I haven’t heard that, but I like it.” Other local residents noted, however, that it didn’t help the bars’ business to have law enforcement parked near that location at night.