Religion

Spirit One is leaving building

A new church is planning to move into the building now occupied by the Spirit One Christian Center next month.

First Freewill Baptist has grown from seven members four years ago to about 150 and needed a larger house of worship, said pastor Josh Bush. The church found it at the Spirit One site at 1515 E. Harry, which Bush said he has put under contract.

"It was a phenomenally well-maintained building," Bush said Friday. "We looked at several different places, and this was definitely the best."

Spirit One has been controversial.

It's known in south Wichita for putting controversial sayings on its sign out front, and for the public actions of its pastor Mark Holick.

A message on Spirit One's sign calling President Obama a Muslim and a "sin against the Lord" received national attention in 2008.

Holick was investigated by the IRS in 2007 into whether his political activities violated his church's tax-exempt status.

He's been arrested on trespassing charges at an abortion clinic and gay pride festivals in Wichita. He was arrested again last month for loitering outside a local mosque.

Holick did not immediately respond to attempts to reach him by phone and e-mail.

"I can't say I'd be brokenhearted if they move," said Yolonda Pears, owner of Pear Tree Martial Arts Supply, across the street from Spirit One. "It'll be nice to see something on that sign besides hate mail.

"I consider myself a strong Christian and some of it offends me."

Bush said the new building will provide his church's growing membership with 40,000 square feet, up from the 8,000 square feet in the current building, at 1701 S. Sedgwick in south Wichita.

"We want people to know it's going to be a new church, not just a change in the name," Bush said.

"But I don't want to cast a negative light on Pastor Holick. He's been very good to work with."

Bush said he expects to close on the building Oct. 24.

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