A snip of a big red ribbon represented a new beginning for the 20-acre property located in the heart of northwest Gainesville’s Mile Run community.
The new owners of a place known for challenging Islam and burning Korans is now the home of a church stressing love and community. Many North Central Florida leaders came to welcome the new church, Spirit of Faith.
One of those leaders was Gainesville mayor Ed Braddy.
“I would not be one to suggest the previous facility didn’t have the right to say certain things and to do certain things,” Braddy said. “But good Lord, it really weighed heavy on the men and women who are living here, raising children here.”
Others chimed in about the new occupation and Jones’ relocation, especially after he again made news this week.
“This is a joyous occasion. My relationship with this building in the past has not been pleasant,” said Tony Jones, chief of the Gainesville Police Department.
Spirit of Faith’s lead pastor is also planning to turn around the negative feelings about Dove World.
“This property represented a lot of negative things that were taking place. Of course, the people in the Mile Run community were sometimes fearful to even go home. They had to go past nooses and different things hanging in the lot,” said Spirit of Faith Pastor Ken Claytor. “So, now I believe it’s a time of restoration. It’s a time of refreshing.”
Church members, who used to meet at the Phillips Center, are happy with the $1.25 million investment in a permanent home.
“I have much more freedom in the Lord. I have learned to just trust God, and I’m just excited about the Dream Center,” said Spirit of Faith member Wanda Lee.
Neighbors were excited, too, since they live across the street and have strong opinions about what happened in the past.
“It was a concern of mine that somebody might do something bad and affect us,” said Mile Run resident Miriam White.
Pastor Ken Claytor hopes to turn the confusion into peace, the hate into love.
“We’re going to build a wonderful facility, first-class children’s church, first-class place to minister to those who are going through addictions and marriage issues, and other small groups,” Claytor said, noting his goals of an orphanage, schools and overall development goals for the 20-acre parcel.
Spirit of Faith holds Sunday services at 9 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. The church is also holding a free community day and open house on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Families can enjoy food, bounce houses and take a tour of the renovated facility.