Pastor John F. Hannah of New Life Covenant Church has big plans for the South Side of Chicago and Friday’s groundbreaking ceremony was just the start.
A former factory in the Greater Grand Crossing area is getting transformed into a 40,000 square foot early childhood learning center. It will operate as a daycare center for the community during the week and function as a children’s church on Sunday. A new church is also being built and will be designed as a performing arts building.
Hannah said it is important that both buildings have multiple purposes.
“I believe the arts are something that’s missing in our community,” he said. “ We all know that Chicago Public Schools removed the arts so there is a major void in our community.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel showed his support for the new project by participating in the ceremony.
“It’s going to be one of the largest early childhood centers on the Southeast Side of Chicago,” he said.
“Knowing what happens in the four walls of the church is not enough, what goes on outside in the community is how you reflect the values of the work of the church,” said Emanuel.
Other remarks came from Ald. Michelle Harris (8th Ward) and Cory Foster, deputy chief of staff for Gov. Pat Quinn. Gospel artist Donald Lawrence performed for guests during the celebration.
Construction will be completed in two phases. Work on the childcare center will happen first. Construction is set to start within the next 30 to 45 days and the center is slated to open in March 2015, said Charles Johnson, chief operation officer. Phase one will cost about $5 million and the new church, with a performing arts setup, will total around $26 million, he said. It will hold 4,000 seats and will open its doors in December of 2015. New Life Covenant began accumulating property back in 2009.
Right now the church holds four services, three which meet on the University of Illinois at Chicago campus, and the fourth at the original building, 1021 E. 78th Street. There are 20,000 active members and with a growing membership, Hannah said the congregation needs a larger space, one that members can call their own. By placing both buildings on the Southeast Side of Chicago, the pastor said that the church can potentially become a safe haven for those who seek it. Tackling the violence won’t happen overnight he said, but there is hope for a positive change in the community.
“We have to catch a generation and the sooner we start, the sooner we’ll see a difference,” said Hannah. “If I get the kids, that means I have access to the house, so now I can begin to minister to the family, to the mother, to the father so the daycare center is a bait to get our hands on the whole family.”
Pastor Randy Horn of Power and Authority Church, 7241 S. Ashland Ave. said he believes the new projects will have a positive impact on the entire community.
“I think it will bring restoration to the community, I think it will be a beacon of light, bringing new life back to the Great Grand Crossing area,” said Horn.