Hospital Lets Church Continue Sunday Service - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

09/18/02

Hospital Lets Church Continue Sunday Service

Unity Christian Fellowship Church began holding Sunday services three weeks ago in an auditorium at Memorial Hospital.

A church pastor says the hospital agreed to let those services continue through the month of October.

But early this week, church leaders got word, they could no longer use the auditorium.

One of the pastors called WLOX News to investigate.

Unity Christian Fellowship is a new church with some 50 to 75 members. Co-pastor, Joe Conway,  says the auditorium at Memorial Hospital was a convenient meeting place for the growing congregation. He didn't understand why the publicly funded hospital wanted his church to stop holding services in its auditorium.

We interviewed him Wednesday morning and tried much of the day to speak with someone from the hospital.

"Basically the reason we were advised was they could not have groups routinely meeting there was the formal statement we got," said Rev. Joe Conway, as he explained why the church was asked to stop meeting at the hospital.

He had difficulty understanding why his new church was no longer welcome to use the auditorium in the South Building at Memorial Hospital. After all, he reasoned, other community groups hold meetings at the publicly funded facility.

"If you shut the door on us, who else do you need to shut the door on. And I think that's going to create a concern in the community. So, there's a bigger picture here than just our church. And that's what I'm really kind of getting agitated with," he explained.

Unity Christian Fellowship is primarily targeting the un-churched of Long Beach and West Gulfport. Conway says a loss of the auditorium, left him scrambling to find suitable space.

"My main concern is for our people. How do you tell 55 to 70 people that right now we don't have a place to meet. We may have to cancel services. So, you're basically telling these people of faith to find another avenue this particular Sunday. That's very difficult," said Rev. Conway.

Memorial Hospital released a two sentence statement.

"This is the first time we have been approached by a church to hold regular church services on site in our auditorium. It is our intention to allow the Unity Christian Fellowship Church to use the auditorium until further review," the statement says.

WLOX News had plenty of questions, but the hospital declined to answer any.

The statement was it.

Rev. Conway told us he's glad the church will be allowed to meet in the auditorium this Sunday. Beyond that, he's also awaiting the hospital's review.

By Steve Phillips

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