The Gathering Church, and its leader, are known for not only having big plans, but for also being a bit unconventional. This is the church that has sponsored a car for the annual Harvey County Fair Demolition Derby the past two years, winning the title last summer.
“It is out of the box here in Newton,” said Brandon Eck, pastor of the church. “When we lived in Kansas City, and in (Las) Vegas, this was the norm. There is a real surge in the church world to be really active in the community. … The church was always meant to be in the community and loving the community.”
The next plan that can be seen as a bit unconventional for the church is the construction of a restaurant and microbrewery — part of a downtown project that includes renovating the Historic Fox Theatre, which the church already owns.
“While we are rallying around that, we are saying let's not waste it. Let's give Newton a one-two punch,” Eck said.
The restaurant and brewery would be located on Main Street — though the actual location is not yet known.
“We would love for it to be within walking distance of the Fox,” Eck said.
When completed the theater will again be a movie and entertainment venue open to the general public. The plan includes weekly “second run” movies along with events including concerts and live theatre productions.
“The idea would be that on a Saturday night you could grab a burger and catch a movie,” Eck said. “Really, we just love downtown. Part of our wanting to show Newton that we love them, and Jesus does too, is to think about how we can be a blessing to the city. Lets not just bring the Fox back to life just so we can have a fancy theater to meet in, but it to be a place that the city can enjoy and and benefit from.”
The plan is to use about 10 percent of the funds raised for renovation of the theatre to invest in the creation of “Station House Craft Burgers and Brewery.”
The church is launching online fundraising next week, with a target of $5.2 million for theater project and $520,000 for the restaurant.
“We have been working for a year and half on it, all of it getting to this point where we can invite the community to come along with us,” Eck said.
The church has committed the first $150,000 to the campaign — that is in addition to more than $200,000 the Gathering has already invested in the Fox Theatre project since purchasing the building and its neighboring building.
On April 16 — Easter Sunday and the church's third birthday — the church will launch a crowdfunding campaign through the Newton Reborn Facebook page (maintained by The Gathering) to try and raise at least $1 million. May 11, The Gathering will invite local business and community leaders to The Fox Theatre for an evening of fun, vision, samples of Station House craft beer, sliders and fundraising.
“I don't personally (have a beer recipe), I don't brew beer, but I am a fan of the craft beer movement,” Eck said. “There are local brewers. They are coming out of the woodwork when you start talking about opening a brewery. We are wanting the Station House to be a place of opportunities for Newton people.
The group will also host a Newton Area of Chamber of Commerce breakfast next week.
Eck said the goal is to have funds raised this summer.
“It will sound crazy, but we want to raise $5.2 million in June,” Eck said. “... It is still in God's hands and it has not escaped us one bit that it will take God moving to make this happen.”