The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Give 'joy' this season

First, recycle a building; second, restore Christmas

"For 14 years I've concluded worship with: 'It's time, my friends, to share the hope and joy we have in Christ. Go now in peace, sharing the love of Jesus by serving others' ... to which the congregation responds: 'With a spirit of joy!' We have become what we have been called each week to be," said Jeffrey Linman, pastor of Spirit of Joy.


Ina Wheeler (left) and Denise Beumer
Ina Wheeler (left) and Denise Beumer support the annual Joy Mall at Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church, Orlando, Fla.

Spirit of Joy appears to have left no stone unturned in transforming space and lives. After nine years of gathering in a school gym and cafeteria, members held a vigil in the parking lot of a closed home improvement store to pray about purchasing it for their church building. But then they saw a closed bowling alley across the street. By 2005, their vision to transform it into a church became a reality. Their motto: "Changing lanes, changing lives."

They'll probably always be known as the "bowling alley" church. But now concession areas serve as a bookstore and kitchen. The bar is the new youth room. Cubbies in the welcome center once held bowling shoes. Where people threw gutter balls and strikes is now a worship space with theater seating and state-of-the-art sound. The 34,000-square-foot building houses the homeless, provides literacy tutoring and offers a creative arts program.

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