Spirit of Faith builds on ‘Dream Center'

The East Campus of the Spirit of Faith Christian Center. Beginning Sunday, the church will hold two Sunday services at the location.

AIDA MALLARD/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:17 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:17 p.m.

A vision from the Lord of a "Dream Center" is rapidly becoming a reality for Pastor Ken Claytor and the Spirit of Faith Christian Center.

The church currently is in negotiations to purchase the 20-acre property currently occupied by the controversial Dove World Outreach Center.

Last Thursday, the city of Gainesville Plan Board unanimously approved a permit for Spirit of Faith to locate and eventually expand on the property located in the 3700 block of NW 58th Place, adjacent to a residential neighborhood.

"We still have $140,000 to raise and there are still some contingencies we must take care of, but things are going well," said Claytor on Tuesday afternoon, adding that the church raised $160,000 of the $300,000 needed for the project in three months.

Claytor said the property will house the church's Dream Center, a place that God revealed to him will help make people's dreams come true.

"The Dream Center will be a place where marriages are restored, healing takes place, businesses get started and lives saved," he said.

The church, which began on April 8, 2007, will celebrate its sixth anniversary and an "Outpouring Conference" at 7 p.m. April 10-12 at the Spirit of Faith East Campus at 1414 NE 23rd Ave.

Claytor said God gave him the vision for the center and then instructed him to place the center at the Dove World site. He said other properties were considered, but "we thought we could take what had been viewed as a negative and turn it into something positive."

Dove World and its leader, Pastor Terry Jones, began making international news in 2009 for their anti-Islam views. The church threatened to burn Qurans on the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks before deciding not to at the last minute. The following spring, reaction to a YouTube video and news reports of a Quran burning by a Dove World member included a riot in Afghanistan in which at least 20 people were killed.

Dove World is planning to move to the Tampa area.

Clay Sweger, a land planner representing Spirit of Faith, said during neighborhood meetings regarding the church's plans, residents near the Dove World site were "very welcoming of the change" and of a potential "new neighbor."

If the Dove World purchase goes through, the church and its nearly 1,000 members will move in by September. The approved permit also will allow for future expansion to include a school and a day care center.

Claytor and his wife, Pastor Tabatha Claytor, moved to Gainesville six years ago to start the ministry.

"We didn't know anyone when we moved here and we started having services at the Thelma Boltin community center with a handful of members," he said. The church grew and services were then relocated to the West Campus at 7510 NW 4th Blvd. off Tower Road near Newberry Road, where the church still operates the Spirit of Faith Faith Academy for children.

In 2010, the church purchased its East Campus, formerly the home of Fire of God Ministries, and began having services there and also at the West Campus. Last year, the church stopped holding Sunday services at the East and West campuses and began meeting at the Phillips Center on the University of Florida campus. Bible Study was then held at the East Campus on Wednesdays. The church held its last service at the Phillips Center on Easter Sunday.

Beginning Sunday, Claytor said the church will hold all of its services at the East Campus until the congregation moves into the Dream Center. Services will be held at 9 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. on Sundays, with Bible Study at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays.

He said the church is raising funds for the Dream Center through its Dream Builders Project. For those interested in donating, visit the church's website at www.sofccg.org.

"Our goal is to reach people who are far from God, regardless of their age, race, or anything, and help bring them closer to the Lord," Claytor said. "The Dream Center will be a place where people with no vision for their lives can find one. Instead of going the wrong way in life, people will start going the right way with God when they come in contact with him. It is not about the building, it is about helping to build up people to serve in the kingdom of God."

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