164-year-old Pewaukee church gets new life thanks to loyal congregation

NOW: 164-year-old Pewaukee church gets new life thanks to loyal congregation

PEWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Three years ago, members of Agape Community Church's congregation thought they were saying farewell to the Old St. Mary's Church building that they had occupied for years. 

CBS 58 was at the last mass. But Senior Pastor Florin Docea says it was due to many miracles that the church is still standing and Agape is ready to hold its first sermon in more than three years. 

While the outside of the 164-year-old building looks the same, it looks much different on the inside. The pews are new, some of the old windows have been removed. That's because demolition had begun on the church from the inside. 

"The bulldozer was literally right here. It was ready to strike, but it didn't strike," said Pastor Florin. 

In 2019, the company that owned the church sold it, and the 164-year-old building was set to be demolished. 

Agape Community Church tried to buy the building, but its bid wasn't accepted. At the time, members of the community started a group advocating to save it.

"It's the heart of our community. It really is," said Jeanette O'Toole, one of the group's organizers. A nursing home was slated to take its place. 

"The first miracle is when I received the phone call from the village asking if we would still be interested," said Pastor Florin.

Agape's proposal was accepted and in June 2021, the congregation was finally able to purchase the space.

"We first walked in and literally everybody cried," said Pastor Florin. "It had sat unwinterized for two winters-- pipes were broken, mold was everywhere." 

In the last year, it's been a place where neighbors and area businesses have shown up, eager and willing to help.

"What we are all about here is restoration and reconciliation. People need second chances, buildings need second chances," said Florin. 

Nothing was wasted in the restoration, old pews were salvaged into door frames and old wooden floors were turned into a symbol of worship.

"One Tuesday morning I walked in and that cross was leaning against the wall, made out of those scraps," said Florin referencing the cross that sits front and center in the church. 

It's been one year since that purchase, and Agape Community Church is ready for its first service. On Sunday, May 8 at 10 a.m.,it will once again open its doors. 

Pastor Florin calls it the first "imperfect service." While they will sing, there are still some technical challenges that mean there may be no other music. Other things the church still needs to repair include HVAC, some plumbing in the basement and a hole in the steeple.

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