June 27 04:30 AM

New look for old school in Attica

Lapeer Community Church welcomes public to an open house Sun., Oct. 26

Church leaders Rick Schwab and Rodney Sanderson-Smith believe Lapeer Community Church has found a much-needed permanent home at its new location in the former Attica Elementary School on Lake Pleasant Road. photo by Tom Wearing.

October 22, 2008
ATTICA — Following what Pastor Rodney Sanderson-Smith describes as a series of miracles, the Lapeer Community Church is just days away from opening its doors at its new location in the former Attica Elementary School.

To mark the completion of a major building renovation at the six-acre Lake Pleasant Road site, a combined grand opening/ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for this Sunday, Oct. 26.

Two public services will be held that day; the first at 9:30 a.m. and another at 11 a.m. Faith-based programming for children will be available at both times.

Sanderson-Smith said the church had been renting out various facilities to hold services since its formation in December 2000. The congregation previously met at the Lapeer County Ed-Tech Center, about a mile north of the new location. This past summer, members gathered for worship beneath a large tent at the school site.

The search for a permanent home effectively ended in April 2007, when church officials reached an agreement with Lapeer Community Schools to purchase the former school building for $175,000. The school district had opted to close the school two years ago to consolidate building space and cut costs.

The acquisition of the former school, says Sanderson-Smith, is just one of the "miraculous" events leading up to the church's opening.

"This has been an exciting process," he says. "I think there has been a lot of interest and intrigue as people have watched the process unfold.

"To have a real home is extremely satisfying," adds Sanderson-Smith. "Everyone has been so gracious and we've had so much help from our volunteers and the community. You can't put a value on it."

Senior Pastor Rick Schwab says the church intends to blend in with the surrounding community, including employing many of the aesthetics of the former school.

"We're using the school's old slate chalkboards to serve as table tops in our cafe," Schwab says, noting that the cafe will be the site for informal gatherings and meetings.

Schwab says the church is also salvaging some of the school's original architecture, including the wooden doors and mouldings, wrought-iron railings and by exposing the old ceiling in the main worship area.

"We wanted to incorporate some of the old amenities from the school," Sanderson-Smith added. "We want to maintain the building as a place for the community to meet, but with a spiritual aspect at the center. It feels good to take something and reinvigorate it."

If there has been one challenge for church officials, it was the absence of a large open area to hold services.

"It was one of our first handicaps," says Sanderson-Smith, "but after a lot of dialogue we decided to remodel the oldest part of the school to serve as our worship space. This is a great space and it works well for us."

Schwab notes that the timely availability of the former school afforded the church a rare financial opportunity.

"It would have conservatively cost us more than $1.2 million to build something like this," says Schwab, "and that's not including the land."

While there remains more work to do, Sanderson-Smith says the congregation of nearly 350 members is prepared to welcome newcomers.

"We are very happy to be able to open our doors," he says. "And our doors will be open to people 24/7. Everyone is welcome."

For more information about Lapeer Community Church, call 810-724-8800. Or visit the church's Web site at

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