Pastor Kenneth Wagner of UNITED Church says that expansion has already been part of the church’s DNA and that, when the church began in 2013, the membership knew that God had plans for them to spread the Word throughout the state of Delaware at as many locations as possible. They initially began worshiping at the Schwartz Center for the Arts in Downtown Dover berfore moving to Dover High School, but knew they wanted to expand to Milford.
“We began holding conversations with Milford School District and soon offered the option of holding worship experiences there,” Pastor Kenneth said. “However, we soon turned our attention to the former Milford Walmart, believing that it may just be the location of the permanent Milford campus. We were so excited, we put in offers and did our due diligence. We encircled the building and there was a point where we gathered 300 people and locked arms around the building and prayed that God would give us the building. We were convinced the former Milford Walmart would be ours.”
In 2019, the church officially put a contract on the former Milford Walmart building but were unable to come to an agreement with the then owner. After spending a significant amount in due diligence, UNITED realized that it owning the building and doing the renovations necessary were not feasible at the time.
“We finally realized we needed to move on from the former Milford Walmart,” Pastor Kenneth said. “It was one of those things that was crushing because we truly believed that building was the perfect place for our new Milford campus. We began to look at other opportunities, all of which were amazing, but none quite materialized.”
In early 2020, Representative Bryan Shupe introduced church leaders to Arthur Helmick who purchased the building in order to build a new movie theatre in Milford. Helmick only planned to use one half of the building and, as of the summer of 2020, was not seeking a tenant for the other half due to the COVID pandemic.
“When I purchased the building, I had no idea UNITED was actively seeking the location for a new church,” Helmick said. “Because of the pandemic, I was not really looking for a tenant. Bryan introduced me to Pastor Kenneth and I began looking into the church as I didn’t know a lot about it at the time. I realized that this would be the perfect tenant for the vacant space next to the theatre. I am pretty sure if you ask Pastor Kenneth, God made the decision for both of us. I never listed the space with a realtor, nor did I put any feelers out for someone to rent the space. It just all came together.”
Helmick explained that because the church would use the building on Sunday mornings, it would not interfere with busy theatre times which compliments both uses of the building. The space is about 28,000 square feet which will be renovated to meet the needs of the church. Construction is supposed to begin in early 2021.
“We will be outfitting the empty side of the building,” Pastor Kenneth said. “We are using GGA, the same construction company that Art is using, and we have full faith that they will meet all deadlines. They tell us that it will be about 14 weeks which would have us opening in early spring 2021. This is one of those things I could only describe as divine flow. It has been a great relationship from the very beginning.”
The church has hired a Milford campus pastor and hope to hold the first worship experience in the new location on Easter. Pastor Kenneth also explained that the church will continue to use the Dover High School location and that the Milford location is in addition to the one in Dover.