Columbus city officials have wanted to widen 17th Street for more than three decades. As federal stimulus money now finally moves that project forward, a city-owned church along the corridor must be razed.
The church’s pastor has given up his pledge to squat on the site until the city backs down.
The Upper Room Full Gospel Tabernacle is now holding services in Reverend Charles Goodin’s basement. Goodin had been renting the church’s first and only home — a city-owned facility — for 150 dollars a month for the last 32 years.
“I didn’t even know we were charging him rent,” said Fred Armstrong, Mayor of Columbus.
“We were just glad he could use it and could keep the building nice. But he had to know all along what would happen.”
The city bought the church three decades ago knowing it would be razed when 17th Street was widened. Goodin rented on a month-to-month basis to facilitate that possibility.
After federal stimulus money was dedicated to the project, the city told Goodin he had to vacate the facility. So Goodin responded, saying God had told him to preach in the church until its balconies were full of teenagers.
Currently the church has 12 to 15 members.
“Now when God sends you somewhere, you’re afraid to leave,” Goodin said.
“So I went down and I talked to Mayor Armstrong. And I told him, I said, you know, God had sent me there. And I told him, I said, ‘I fear the Lord.’ And he said, ‘I don’t fear God!’”
Goodin told the mayor he’d have to be forcibly removed from the building. A handful of registered letters from the city spelling out Goodin’s limited legal options eventually convinced him to back down, and he left of his own accord.
But the church still stands. Armstrong says uncertainty about the timing of the stimulus funding that’ll pave the way for its destruction means the building will remain standing indefinitely.
City Engineer Steve Ruble says he’s still negotiating with one landowner and the project cannot begin until that deal is done.
Goodin says he kept up his end of the deal, but the city has not…
“God knows the future better than we remember the past. And 32 years ago when he sent me there he saw down the road and he saw all this was going to happen,” Goodin said.
“And I’ll be very honest with you, I don’t know what this is all about. I’ve not been shown, I’ve not been told anything. I’m strictly walking by faith right now.”
The church’s belongings, including pews and other furniture have already been sold at auction.