Church holds first service at former Heritage USA
FORT MILL — In a mix between a rock concert and a church meeting, MorningStar Fellowship Church on Sunday dedicated its new location at what once was Heritage USA.
The capacity crowd clapped and danced in the temporary assembly hall set up in the lobby of the former Heritage Grand Hotel. Many waved their arms and turned their faces, eyes closed, toward the ceiling. Some danced barefoot or in their socks.
“God is doing awesome things here,” said Eric Coon of Charlotte, who provided security to upper floors. “He’s going to restore that which Satan was trying to destroy.”
Restoration has been the church’s theme since the ministry purchased 52 acres of the complex founded by Jim and Tammy Bakker of the now-defunct PTL Ministries.
Founder Rick Joyner, 55, who spoke for more than an hour Sunday, said he’s determined to learn from the mistakes of Bakker, whose ministry crumbled because of a sex-and-money scandal.
Joyner also acknowledged that it will take the community time to understand and trust his church.
“We’re going to be under scrutiny for a long time,” said Joyner. “Trust is something that has to be earned. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
Joyner, who founded the church in 1995, said other churches are considering moving to the property. He hopes MorningStar helps area churches grow.
“The main thing is that people don’t leave talking about us,” he said. “We want people who leave here closer to God than when they first came in.”
The site, near Fort Mill’s Regent Park, includes a 500-room hotel, Main Street shops, an 1,800-seat conference center and an unfinished 21-story tower.
The church bought the property for $1.6 million from Fort Mill developer Earl Coulston of Coulston Enterprises, who plans to build commercial property and housing on 900 acres.
Coulston was recognized at the 11 a.m. service that opened with almost an hour of music. Afterward, a minister was ordained and dancers in black and white costumes performed.
“This place died for a reason, but now it’s alive,” said Leonard Jones, worship team leader. “We take this place back in the name of Jesus.”
It was the music that attracted Coon, a Catholic, to MorningStar. He’s excited about the new location and said the drive from Charlotte won’t be a burden.
“It’s going to continue to grow,” he said.
Carol and Henry Poudrier from the nearby Dogwood Hills development attended the MorningStar service for the first time Sunday. They liked Joyner’s message and are pleased the property is being improved.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Carol Poudrier said.
Renovations are expected to take a year and will cost between $3 million and $4 million. The ministry has spent about $200,000 so far.
The 2,000-member Pineville, N.C., congregation has been moved there, and 140 seminary students are to begin classes in the hotel by January.
Dec. 6, 2004