Alabaster FUMC begins services in former Winn Dixie building

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

When Alabaster First United Methodist Church Pastor Brian Erickson walked across the parking lot behind the church April 10 with about 500 members of the congregation, it began to hit him.

After church members had been contemplating the best way to expand the church’s offerings for more than three years, Erickson and his fellow worshipers were about to walk into the answer to their prayers.

The former Winn Dixie supermarket in the Alabaster Market Center shopping center now serves as the church’s non-traditional worship center, and has seen a complete makeover since its days as a grocery store.

“The story of that building is symbolic. This grocery store served its life,” said Erickson. “If God can use that space and turn it into a worship center, he can take the most broken life and turn it around.”

Last year, church officials struggled to find funding to purchase the former Winn Dixie building, and had to have the property rezoned to fit the church’s needs.

“You think about what a struggle it was to buy that place. Two dozen banks turned us down before one of the banks that previously turned us down, BB&T, came back and approved us for a loan,” Erickson said.

“I remember going into the building and walking up and down where the isles used to be and worrying and praying so hard that it would work out,” Erickson added.

Today, the building is full of furnishings and décor usually reserved for high-end downtown apartments and office buildings. It purposely looks nothing like a traditional church building, Erickson said.

Church officials designed the new campus, called Restore, as a contemporary and non-traditional alternative to the church’s nearby main campus off Alabama 119.

“Most church buildings are to benefit the people already there. But our church folks are not worshiping (at Restore) on Sundays,” Erickson said. “We wanted to send a clear message to people who may not go to church now: We did this for you.

“We have been doing a good job of pulling people from other churches. That looks great on our numbers, but that’s not the work of the church,” Erickson said. “We are trying to find ways to attract people who don’t go to church now.”

Services in the Restore building are more contemporary and “edgy,” than the services held at the main church campus, Erickson said. Beginning Easter Sunday, the church will begin holding 5 p.m. Sunday services at the new building.

“We really want to reach out to folks who may be uncomfortable in church through this new building,” Erickson said. “We’re not here to shove anything down anyone’s throats. We just want everyone to feel welcome here.”