The big, red Shiloh Barn, located on the West End of Billings, has been a familiar destination for lots of people over the years attending wedding receptions, graduation parties or just parties in general.
That's all about to change. It will still be a destination for people, only now it will be a place they go to pray, rather than play.
Calvary Chapel, which for the past decade has called a former downtown car dealership home, has purchased the barn and 10 acres of land on South 48th Street West. Now the nondenominational church will have plenty of room to expand.
"It gives our congregation a future where we can meet, grow together and build together," said the Rev. Wayne Hathaway, pastor of the church.
What spurred the move, Hathaway said, is the owner of the downtown location decided to sell the building. That new owner intends to occupy the space for a new business, Hathaway said.
"We've been looking for a place to move eight of the 10 years we've been here," he said. "The same week we found out our lease would not be renewed, the Shiloh Barn came on the market. This is really the first time something presented itself we could afford."
So Calvary Chapel made an offer on the barn and the land and the owners accepted it. Then, earlier this week, the Yellowstone County commissioners approved a variance on the land to allow the church to meet on the premises.
Hathaway will preach his first sermon in the barn this Sunday. Since the congregation is moving from an 8,000-square-foot space to one that is 4,000 square feet, the church plans to set up a 1,500-square-foot tent to house its children's ministry.
"By the cold weather we hope to have a structure in place that's at least the same size as the tent," Hathaway said.
About 150 people attend the church that includes contemporary worship and a worship band on Sunday mornings. Between 175 and 200 people call Calvary Chapel home.
"It's a pretty laid-back atmosphere," Hathaway said. "We're really a warm, loving church. We care about people, and we care about kids."
The church is one of 1,300 Calvary Chapels nationwide, all likeminded in their beliefs, Hathaway said. The original Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, Calif., was founded by the Rev. Chuck Smith in 1965 in the midst of the national Jesus Movement.
One of the goals of the local Calvary Chapel, Hathaway said, is to develop a more extensive kids' ministry. Already in the works for next summer is a day camp for kids whose parents work and need day care for their children.
The Billings Calvary Chapel also for the past five years has been an extension campus of the Calvary Chapel Bible College, which is located in Murrieta, Calif.
"Our goal is to set up classrooms dedicated to the Bible college," Hathaway said. "In addition, we'd like to build a small conference center here for retreats that would be in Billings, but in a secluded place."
The church also runs a full-power radio station, located at 88.9 FM. The station mainly features programming from the original Calvary Chapel, beamed by satellite, but has the capability to broadcast local programs.
The church draws its members from Billings, as well as Hardin, Columbus, Joliet, Roundup and beyond. With a move to a barn whose location is already familiar to many Billings people, Hathaway hopes to see new faces join the congregation at the barn, to pray and to awaken or deepen their faith.
"It's a property that's going to be used to touch the lives of people," he said.
Contact Susan Olp at 657-1281 or firstname.lastname@example.org.