Driving into the parking lot with his Harley motorcycle, jean jacket and cut off sleeves, Clint Almeida has been at churches where he said he didn’t feel accepted because of his appearance.
“They get shocked when we show up,” Almeida said of the reaction he and fellow bikers have observed.
At Inspiration Church in Madison Heights, he feels at home, fully welcomed and has been involved in helping run the sound system. “They provide a lot of different opportunities to do a lot of different things,” he said of ways to serve.
Acceptance and a sense of belonging are among the hallmarks of the church, which several months ago relocated to Madison Heights under a new name. Previously known as One Community Church on Kemper Street in Lynchburg, the church now leases space in the Caterpillar Clubhouse facility on Dillard Road in Madison Heights.
Destin Tanner, lead pastor, said the church’s mission, like its name, is to provide a place where people are inspired to reach their full potential in Jesus Christ.
“Some have trepidation to come to church because of judgment and condemnation. We just want to offer inspiration and hope and give people a place to come, no matter their failures or mistakes,” Tanner said. “Our heart is love. You’re loved and accepted wherever you are in life. I want people to be inspired to reach their dreams, to overcome obstacles, to maximize their potential.”
A native of Lynchburg’s White Rock area, Tanner said he accepted Christ at age 18. Growing up in a rough neighborhood and describing himself as “anti-church,” he said turned to God out of desperation in his troubled childhood. He never thought one day he would be a pastor and recalls his days of living “down and out,” depressed and viewing God as distant, not as a loving friend.
That changed and his renewed sense of purpose opened up doors in ministry in recent years. He felt he was unqualified because he made mistakes in his youth and has a stuttering issue. Sympathizing with those in society who feel overlooked, he said the heart for Inspiration Church is to reach those who feel alienated and left out as part of the overall mission to spread the gospel.
“We want to be inclusive,” Tanner said. “We’re a multi-cultural church.”
Eureka Bryant, who leads worship with her husband, Givens, said the church is a family-oriented place where people of all ages and different backgrounds share fellowship.
“It has been a blessing for me,” Eureka said. “I’ve grown a lot since being here.”
The church’s goal is for everyone to feel like they’re home and amongst family, she said.
“We believe in inspiring people to be the best and be all they can be for God,” Givens said.
Joey Fiefhaus, a Lynchburg resident and member of the praise band, said one aspect of the church that he likes is worshipers of different races, religious denominations and walks of life are coming together in unity to love God and serve the community the best they can.
“I think that really resonates with me,” Fiefhaus said.
The church is having an open house event Sunday, May 2, from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and invites all to join, Tanner said. Activities include music, games, Laser tag and corn hole and food will be available.