Afresh Church Seeks Court Protection to Stay at Winchester Location
Afresh Church was founded in early 2017 and is a non-traditional church, dedicated to serving the local downtown Winchester community. It focuses on welcoming individuals that would not normally attend a church or religious gathering. Its motto is “You don’t have to believe to belong,” and those who call Afresh “home” have a diverse set of beliefs along with a diverse socio-economic background.
Since April of 2017, the church has met in White House Foods’ office building (located at 550 Fairmont Ave) for its Sunday services. White House Foods has always been very generous and supportive of Afresh Church and its mission to serve the less fortunate members of the local Winchester community.
Since 2008, White House Foods has frequently allowed other non-profits (besides Afresh) to use this facility for their events. White House Foods has also used the facility for its own corporate events. The Winchester Department of Planning and Zoning was aware of these events and approved White House Foods allowing fundraisers and events in the building.
However, after Afresh started using the facility, the City began fining White House Foods for allowing the church to meet there. When White House Foods asked the City why they were being fined, the City said that White House Foods could use the facility for other (secular) gatherings, but churches were not permitted. The City of Winchester has now filed a lawsuit against White House Foods asking a Court to order White House Foods to cease permitting Afresh use the facility.
Afresh Church believes that the City is discriminating against it because it is a religious organization, and to protect itself, Afresh Church has requested that Federal District Court in the Western District of Virginia declare that the City’s actions are illegal and order the City to cease its fines and other enforcement actions.
Afresh Church believes strongly in its mission to minister to the downtown community. Unfortunately, due to its size and technology requirements, Afresh Church has been unable to locate any other facility that would meet its needs in the downtown area. If it is forced to leave White House Foods’ facility on Fairmont Ave, it will be forced to relocate away from the downtown Winchester area, and it will be unable to fulfill its mission to serve that community.
Afresh Church wishes to live peaceably with all men, including and especially, the City Government and officials where it is located. Afresh would welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues with the City leadership; but to date, while the City has made various promises and representations about resolving this matter to both Afresh and White House Foods, nothing has been done, and the City continues to pursue legal action to force Afresh to leave the facility.
Posted on Sun, December 9, 2018
by Aaron Brewer