Local churches have been moving domino-style.
The two-year-old Passion Praise Outreach Ministries has moved into Agape Bible Christian Fellowship’s old home on Market Street, and Agape, which was founded in 2001, resettled in the former sanctuary of Villa Heights Baptist Church, which has folded after 58 years.
Passion Praise Ministries is settling in at 240 E. Market St., Martinsville, a former Sara Lee building across from Martinsville Middle School.
Elder Terrel Johnson, the pastor of Passion Praise, lives in Richmond but comes to Martinsville two or three times a week for services. He plans on moving to Martinsville eventually, he said.
Born in New Rochelle, N.Y., Johnson came to Martinsville with his family when he was 7 or 8 years old, he said. The family includes mother Gracie Oliver Payne and grandmother Pandorian Johnson, both of Fieldale, and sister Tashiana Johnson of Greensboro, N.C.
Johnson’s church involvement started at Meadowview AME in Martinsville. The musician (he plays organ, drums and saxophone) became licensed as a minister there, and he became Meadowview’s youth minister.
In 2007 Johnson moved to Lynchburg to take classes in Information Systems Engineering at what is now called American National University. Then he moved to Norlina, North Carolina, where he was the minister of music for two years for Full Gospel Ministries.
Then it was on to Garment of Praise in Richmond, where he was a musician for eight or nine years and became ordained as an elder. He also worked at a funeral home and as a licensed real estate agent.
Though he was established in Richmond, his heart remained in Martinsville, he said. He opened Passion Praise Ministry in 2017 in Collinsville.
Nine people were in that original congregation. “The ministry has grown pretty strong and it’s still growing,” he said: Now there are about 110 people on the roll.
The members of the congregation “are truly Holy Ghost-filled,” he said. “The Lord moves us in a mighty way. We’ve seen miracles happen in the service.”
The church’s slogan is “All We Do, We Do in Love.”
Passion Praise’s efforts focus on reaching people outside the church. “Pastoring is not just the flock you have within your four walls but you are devoted to the community you serve,” he said.
A church evangelist team goes out in the community to offer prayer and sometimes meals.
Shavis Lipscomb, who became an associate minister at Living Waters on Fayette Street, is part of Passion Praise. So is Elder Anthony Taylor, who is the assistant pastor.
Taylor and Joe Dixon plays organ, with Johnson on organ occasionally. Clarence Plunkett plays drums and Markus Carson plays keyboard and drums. John Smith, who “plays everything,” is the minister of music, Johnson said.
Services are held at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. each Sunday. Mid-week at 7 p.m., the Women’s Ministry meets on the first and third Wednesday and Bible study is held on the second and fourth Wednesday.
“ We have a very strong youth department, with close to 30 or more,” Johnson said. That group of “very strong, smart kids” meets at 10 a.m. Sundays.
On occasional Friday nights they have “Friday Night Live” services, with guest speakers and choir or sometimes games and socializing.
The non-denominational church is part of Garment of Praise International Ministries in Richmond, which is under Apostle Brenda Conyers, Johnson said.
Taylor described the worship style as “more like Pentecostal.”
“ It’s definitely a prophetic ministry,” Taylor added.
Johnson credits Tracy Bruce as a force behind the church. She is now the church clerk.
Well before Passion Praise was formed, “she started calling me ‘pastor.’ She pushed it,” he said.
It was Bruce and his grandmother who looked for buildings to house Passion Praise before it opened, he said.
The church not only has been blessed with a new, bigger home, but is also has started a mini-fleet of vehicles. Another ministry gave it a 30-passenger bus, and Passion Praise bought a church van for only $200.
“ Need a ride, we’re here,” he said.
Agape and Villa Heights
Agape, which has been in the former Sara Lee building for more than 10 years, has moved to the former Villa Heights Baptist Church at 38 Corse Ave. Agape was founded by Dr. C. Lee Hagwood.
The Villa Heights Baptist Church’s building is on 12 acres in a neighborhood off English Road and Smith Rucker Road off Virginia Avenue. Its final pastor was Keith Spangenberg.
The March/April edition of “The Caller,” Henry County Baptist Association’s newsletter, has a message titled “The Legacy of Villa Heights Baptist Church” signed by “Former Trustees & Pastor.”
It states that Villa Heights had been a church within the Henry County Baptist Association for 58 years.
It states, “We reached the point that many of our sister churches may be familiar with: we weren’t the church we used to be in size, ministries, and capabilities; we're an aging congregation that was having to cut back services because we didn’t drive at night, cook like we used to, and becoming less physically able to get out into the community; each year the budget had to be reduced; the future looked bleaker.”
The members “did not want the building to become a funeral home or “used car lot,” it states.
The church agreed to let Agape use its property and to let Amanacer of Collinsville, a church with services in Spanish, to use the fellowship hall, it states.
Villa Heights took a survey and vote dto divide remaining assets among Agape, Amanacer, Grace Network, the Gideon's, Pregnancy Care Center, Good News Jail Ministry, and the Horne Home’s residents, the passage states.