On Easter, couple shares tale of spiritual redemption

The Junior Power of Praise team performs during Easter Sunday service at Spirit of Faith Church Christian Center held at the Phillips Center in Gainesville on Sunday.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Sunday, March 31, 2013 at 7:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 31, 2013 at 7:41 p.m.

Pastor Tabatha Claytor was 12 the first time she went to a psychiatrist.

Growing up in the projects and exposed to verbal, physical and sexual abuse, she said, she was diagnosed with depression. Around her, aunts and friends had abusive relationships, and at 14, she had one of her own, she said.

During college, she drank, partied and smoked and spiraled into a deeper depression. She couldn’t hold a job and had constant anxiety attacks, she recalled on Sunday.

When she married Kenneth Claytor, the drugs, alcohol and parties didn’t stop. They were $100,000 in debt with a failed marriage when three men preaching about God knocked on her door, she said.

That visit led the couple to start the Spirit of Faith congregation in Gainesville. They have supported missions, started two Christian education schools and host a weekly television broadcast called Faith Today.

“When I accepted Jesus into my life, for the first time I felt I was loved,” she said.

Claytor and her husband, Pastor Kenneth Claytor, led more than 1,300 people in a congregation on Easter Sunday at the Spirit of Faith Christian Center. People from Ocala, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville and as far as Maryland came to the Phillips Center for Performing Arts at 11 a.m. for the church service.

After several musical acts, Kenneth Claytor began describing the death and resurrection of Jesus. He and his wife said the only solution to their problems had been God.

“God is not looking for your intellect, he’s looking for your heart,” he said. “Jesus has just sent you a Facebook friend request. What will your response be to his love?”

Claytor also said the congregation will have services at its eastside location at 1414 NE 23rd Ave., until it can build the new location it wants. Starting Sunday, the church will have two services to accommodate the more than 1,000 members of the congregation.

The city Plan Board approved a permit for the church to expand on the 20-acre Dove World Outreach Center property, located in the 3700 block of Northwest 58th Place. The down payment for the property is $300,000, of which the church has $140,000, but still needs donations to complete the rest, Claytor said.

“That church and the gentleman who ran it gave Gainesville very negative worldwide publicity,” he said. “God wants us to go in there and bring a positive light to this community and touch the world.”

Tonge Grant, 37, a member of the church, said she believes the pastor will have to do three or four services a day instead of two because of the size of the congregation.

“I’ll going to miss all of us getting together at the same time, but I’m excited,” she said. “This is just a bus stop on our way to getting the Dream Center.”

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