THREE FOUNDING MEMBERS OF OWOSSO CITY CHURCH gathered on the front porch of the new location at 521 E. Williams St., Owosso (formerly Abba’s House) on Wednesday, July 10 for this commemorative photo. The three members include (from left) Pastor Marlene Webster, Adrianna McGeehan and Laura Scheffler. The next, enthusiastic generation of membership is represented by Harry Moore (4), Zeke (4), Richie (2) and Anneliese McGeehan (6), Jack Moore (6) and Flora Scheffler (7), all joined by 6-month-old Elsa McGeehan.

   Owosso City Church held its first public worship service in October 2012. Now, as of summer 2019, the group has a permanent home – and it truly is a home.

(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)


by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor

   Owosso City Church began eight years ago with a group attending the Owosso Church of the Nazarene, who had come to recognize a need in the community for a church that could be more accessible to people than in a traditional church setting – particularly to younger people. This founding group first asked for permission from the Owosso Church of the Nazarene and the denominational district, before going forward with an initial plan to create a café-style church. That early concept was based after witnessing a large number of youth, raised in the church, but leaving the church behind as young adults. Some of these young people sought alternative, often negative groups to connect with, even leading to substance abuse problems. Owosso City Church had the idea to offer a church, minus restrictions and unnecessary dogma, where everyone would be welcome. Yes, everyone. No questions asked. Plus, the café church concept, with the first services being held at Capitol Bowl, allowed for church members to connect with positive resources, even employment opportunities.

   Owosso City Church has floated around Owosso quite extensively, from Capitol Bowl to various vacant buildings to a local café, the church has been rather nomadic. That recently changed with the purchase of the property on the corner of Williams and Dewey streets in Owosso. Owosso City Church has found a home – the former location of Abba’s House and the earlier location of the Owosso Church of the Nazarene. The large parsonage is the building now in use. The original church structure burned in the 1980s.

   Laura Scheffler, a founding member, shared, “The church is the people. The church isn’t just the building. We now have a building and the people are the church, but being nomadic for that long, really helped us to realize that.”

   Pastor Marlene Webster told the story of a young person that she had previously mentored for 13 years, who came to her because he wanted to leave church “to become more compassionate.” The ultimate message he had gained in his church upbringing was that to follow the message of Jesus further, he needed to leave church. Webster said that got her rethinking her career. She then knew she wanted to create a church for the disenfranchised.

   A little history of the newly purchased property – the first Owosso Nazarenes purchased the corner lot in 1936, when they were able to build just a basement for worship until they could collect the resources to build further. The later structures, the church and parsonage, were constructed in the 1940s. In the 1980s, the Nazarene church moved to the new location on M-52, south of Owosso and remains there today.

   “That really spoke to us, too,” shared Webster on completing the circle of Owosso City Church, beginning with the Owosso Church of the Nazarene to move on, but later find a home at the site of the first location of the original church.

   To clarify, the new property will house and is owned by Owosso City Church, but it will also now house the offices for the nonprofit Shiawassee Hope. Shiawassee Hope will rent offices in the forward part of the building. Though the two organizations were created at the same time, Owosso City Church and Shiawassee Hope are two different entities, though Owosso City Church has always helped support Shiawassee Hope.

   “Owosso City Church is called that because we wanted it to exist for the good of our city,” Webster explained. “We want this building to be a community building.” The group is not actually even calling the property a church. A name will come in time.

   Members have “plans and dreams” for the new home. Eventually, four very large upstairs bedroom areas will be used to possibly shelter individuals struggling with substance abuse. Spaces within the building will be available for rent to different organizations. Due to Shiawassee Hope’s connection to Shiawassee Drug Court, the building can even be used to host sober parties, minus any alcohol, complete with karaoke and dancing.

   On the youngest members attending Owosso City Church, Adrianna McGeehan shared that they “own the place.” Owosso City Church has an overall youthful membership to start, but where children are concerned, they have been included in everything, minus the stigma of a formal church sanctuary being where the adults go when children are carted off somewhere else. The informal and open church setting, with members gathered casually at tables, free to ask questions and encouraged to formulate conversations, includes children.

   Along with the relationship between Owosso City Church and Shiawassee Hope, children are included, even encouraged to join in with humanitarian efforts and be a part of the entire community. Missionary work starts at home. Owosso City Church now has a permanent home.

   Owosso City Church meets on Sundays at 10 a.m. and also 4:44 p.m. Everyone is welcome to come and go as they please.

Home is Where the Heart is for Owosso City Church was last modified: July 17th, 2019 by Karen Elford