PRINCETON — The big empty building just north of the courthouse in downtown Princeton made an impression six years ago on newcomer Skip Farmer.
The pastor of Tower Heights of Church of God saw the former department store-turned dance club-turned teen club and saw more than a vacant storefront. "I thought it would have a great ministry presence," he said.
Farmer said he prayed over the building with his wife — took the extra step to lay hands on the building in prayer.
Farmer said Tom Shearer, owner of The Palace, happened to see him laying hands on the building and asked him what he was doing. "I told him."
Shearer mentioned Farmer's vision for the building with Kyle Johnson, owner of Halfrack Properties, which owns the building. Several years ago, Johnson gutted and revived The Palace building, among other structures around the square. He also purchased and stabilized the back wall of the former Silver Spur building at the corner of North Main and East State.
The building was for sale, but within a few weeks, Johnson gave the property to Church of God Inc.
Farmer said the working name for the building and its ministry is "Church on the Square," and the working vision is "to serve the heart of this community from the heart of God."
"The goal is to infuse ourselves into the community" by using the building for worship, Thursday night programs with kids ministry, other family-oriented activities and a six-days-a-week coffee house, he said.
The building will be available for community events, and the coffee house is the beginning of an effort to put other business in the downtown area, giving people a leg up into the workforce. Ultimately, the building could also serve as a soup kitchen.
"God's bringing us some people who have a heart for this," he said. "We want to love those who are marginalized...No matter what and where they are."
Debbie Salters, lead pastor of Thursday Church in Vincennes, is a mentor for the project, said Farmer.
Meanwhile, there's lots of work to be done. Farmer said Church of God Inc.'s Church on the Square has 501 (c)3 status, so donations are tax deductible. Contractors available to donate time and talent are welcome for the transformation.
Some of the work involves roofing, renovating the interior and eventually pulling the aluminum facade down to the original brick face. Farmer said the goal is to have the main floor of the building renovated and open for use by Easter 2019.
The local church has done "church on the square" for many years before Church on the Square, notes Farmer. Tower Heights Church of God members have presented the live Nativity scene on the courthouse lawn about 20 years.
Having Church on the Square offers more opportunities for a presence in the heart of the community, at events like Heritage Days and others, said Farmer. "Now we can work alongside them."