GALIPOLIS — After months of renovation and a hard last sprint to the finish for pastor John O’Brien and his congregation, River City Fellowship has opened the doors of its new downtown Gallipolis location. Plans abound for the future of the church and its surrounding community.
“Our vision is that we want to see a transformation in our city,” said O’Brien. “We want to welcome people in without judgment and without conditions. It’s a fun vibrant group where everyone knows everyone. We’re part of a network of churches, but we are free to adapt to the community. We aren’t mandated at all.”
The church, described by O’Brien as inter-denominational, has been growing steadily since 2006 when he and his wife Sarah began hosting a Bible study in their home.
“We had around 12 people back then,” O’Brien said, “Our congregation was approaching 250 before this last move, and it’s growing all the time.”
The growing church population meant that the Silver Bridge Plaza location had become too tight, and this helped prompt the move to the old Goodwill building on Court Street.
“It has passed its final inspection, and it’s going to be ready enough to have services,” O’Brien noted, adding that although there will be some finishing touches still to add, the lighting and the sound will be ready for Sunday services. Music and singing are important parts of the services, and the church generally favors a more contemporary sound, O’Brien said.
“Aaron Petry is our worship leader; he plays the guitar,” said O’Brien, “He’s the chemistry teacher at Gallia Academy. He moved back to the area from Belpre just to help with the church. We’re hoping to open up the facility for local live music, as well, and we’re planning to have our open mic night, which is one of the most fun things we do.”
O’Brien, who taught fifth-grade science until 2008 when the time seemed right for him to take on a full-time ministry, said that he and other leaders in the church are keen to have a positive influence on the area’s youth. He noted that the teen ministry, led by Terri and Robbie Jacks, is already thriving, with the teen group for seventh- through ninth-graders meeting every Sunday at 6 p.m.
“We have more than 30 teens at any given time,” said O’Brien, “They’re very involved in the community. They recently helped the church in its sponsorship of 140 needy families, which they were very excited to do.”
And plans are in the works for other youth programs in the larger new facility, including an after-school program.
“The first stage was to get in here, and now we can start brainstorming and move ahead.” O’Brien said. “We love our city, and we want to bless it, so let’s put our money where our mouth is. Let’s help revitalize our town. We’re trying to gauge our success, not by how many people we can get to come and sit in church, but by the condition of our community.
“God is interested in the way we live now.”
River City Fellowship Church is located on Third Ave and Court St. in Gallipolis. Its Sunday morning services begin at 10 a.m.