Grace Lutheran Church finds new home on Main Street
DESTIN — After being homeless for six months, Grace Lutheran has found a home on Main Street in Destin.
Grace Lutheran, which was located on Commons Drive, sold their facility in 2020 so it could become what is now the home of the Destin High School Sharks.
Grace was initially without a permanent home, but local church Immanuel Anglican allowed them to use their facility for services.
“They were incredibly gracious hosts,” said Kevin Wendt, senior pastor at Grace Lutheran.
Grace met weekly on Sunday’s at 3 p.m.
“The members were supportive,” Wendt said even in the time change. "The Lord held his church together … just like he promises.”
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After Immanuel made the offer to use their facility, Wendt found out that Grace Lutheran had once helped Immanuel out when they were homeless.
“That floored me … I didn’t see that coming,” said Wendt, who has been pastor at the church for the past 10 years.
So on their first Sunday at Immanuel, Wendt made a point of thanking the congregation in person for the use of the facility.
On Aug. 1, Grace moved into their now church, at 125 Main Street. The building was erected in the late 1980s as a bank. Since then it has housed a few other businesses.
As for their old church on Commons Drive, Wendt said it was time to make a move.
“We were in over our heads with the cost and size … so the whole scale had to be scaled down,” he said.
His congregation of just a little over a 100 was meeting in a sanctuary that could house 400 people.
“We were posting and making it known that we were selling,” he said.
“You have to see the hand of God working in the midst of all that,” Wendt said, noting the high school was “almost tailor-made for it.”
“We are really happy for them,” he said.
Since the high school revamped the building and moved in, Principal Christine Cruickshank gave Wendt a tour of the facility before opening to the students.
“It was just remarkable to me," he said. "I didn’t have a vision for seeing how they could turn it into a high school.
“The bones were there, but I didn’t see the polish to it. She walked me around and I hardly recognized the place I’d been a pastor of for 10 years,” Wendt added.
“They really did a good job … an excellent job. They clearly had a vision for that property and it’s coming together,” he said.
In the meantime, Grace’s Executive Director Mike Wind had a vision for the facility they are now in, a bank turned church.
“Mike Wind had his radar on and he was always looking for something,” Wendt said. "I remember distinctly driving by here and the aesthetics of it was warm and inviting.
“I drove around the property and thought, this just seems too small,” he added, noting he didn’t see the vision of a church. “So, it kind of fell off our radar and other things popped on."
Then one day Wind gave it another look and encouraged Wendt to do the same.
“Everything just started to seem very natural, like this could have some potential,” Wendt said.
They had an open house for the congregation to come check it out and there wasn’t one negative about it, he said.
They have turned what was once the bank lobby into a sanctuary.
“We’re not done yet,” Wendt said, noting they are just getting started with their renovations.
After discussion, "we settled on a direction for our chancel, that’s our first order of business,” he said.
“We want a building that is centered on the sanctuary and a sanctuary that is centered on a chancel and a chancel that is centered on Christ crucified,” he said.
Grace has a membership of about 120 that now meet at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings.
Right now parking is adequate as well as seating. The big question mark is Snowbird season.
In the past, Snowbirds have “stretched our seams,” he said.
However, this year they have no idea how many are coming.
“Last year was down because of COVID,” Wendt said. And the early read is that the numbers may be low.
“So, we’re wrestling … (we) may have to add a service to accommodate them,” he said. “But renovation hasn’t really started. Priority is to have a Christ centered chancel.”
Thus far, the functionality of the building is “servicing us right from the start,” Wendt said.
“Watch and keep an eye … you’ll see many changes in the days to come,” he said. “We’re excited to be a part of this neighborhood. It seems to bring us into the heart of Destin.
“It’s real appealing for us. It’s like when you move into a new house … you get your stability, your feet set and make yourself a home and learn about your neighbors, and be a good neighbor. We’re glad to be here,” he added.