CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. – Pastor Leroy Wiggins and his team turned the key for the first time Tuesday morning on the property they recently acquired which will allow The Chapel to expand and grow in Cheektowaga.
The non-denominational mega-church based in Getzville purchased the Movieland 8 property at the Thruway Plaza for $1.3 million to house its Cheektowaga campus. The Chapel has been leasing space at the Regal Cinemas in the Walden Galleria for the past few years.
“There’s no real congregation that can hang out afterward, you can’t really be relationable with people and once services are done, we have to load everything and get it back into a 56’ long truck,” said Pastor Wiggins.
That’s right – each Sunday – church members unload 100 different crates, set up in six different theaters, have services and then tear it all down again – all within a short five-hour window.
Pastor Wiggins – who simply goes by Leroy – gave Cheektowaga Chronicle a tour of the building and shared what the future vision is for the congregation.
The property is exactly the same as it was when the former Movieland 8 closed in May 2015. Bottled soda pop still sits at the concession stand, coming soon posters for
Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel hang in the lobby. Ironically, the title card for the last movie to play in the theater in what will become the main worship center – Fifty Shades of Grey – still remains illuminated above the theater’s doors.
The church is not shying away from the fact that their church is located in a former movie theater and they hope to keep some of the elements in place as a homage.
“We’ve had all the different ministries here talking about their ideas, then talking with the architect and asking if we can do what we want to do. There are walls that need to be demoed, there are floors that need to be put in, there’s 2,000 chairs that need to come out, a ton of technical things that need to go in,” added Pastor Wiggins.
The church wants to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to learn the Gospel’s teachings in their own environment. Adults are separated from the children and the children are segmented even further into nursery school, pre-school, elementary school, middle school and high school ministries.
“Everyone has to hear about God on their own terms if you will, in terms of what they can understand and comprehend. What you teach to a two-year-old, love, and as you go up from there you hear different things and it allows them to engage and it also gives them a place to serve one day as well,” continues Pastor Wiggins.
A team of around 20 people from The Chapel is spearheading the redevelopment of the building. A final timeline of what projects need to be completed and what date congregants can start worshipping at the site should be finalized within a month.
The Cheektowaga ministry was established a few years ago. After a lot of thought and number crunching The Chapel decided to sow the seeds for a permanent home for its flock in the town.
“We looked at a number of different areas and it just kept coming back to Cheektowaga. We’ve been praying about it and had staff going to different places to get a sense of the areas and much like we chose Lockport several years ago – that same process is how we chose Cheektowaga,” added Pastor Wiggins.
The move is part of a five-year plan that The Chapel is undertaking to sustain its ministry beyond 2022. Plans to establish a ministry in the City of Niagara Falls is also in the works.
The Cheektowaga ministry current consists of around 300 congregants from Cheektowaga, West Seneca, Depew, the Southtowns, and Buffalo. Pastor Wiggins hopes that number will grow with a healthy investment into the new building and by God’s blessing.
“We’re here to stay. We want to make sure that this is not a fly by night thing. This is going to be our home for Cheektowaga so we want to make sure that we’re investing heavily into the facility that will allow us to be here for a long, long time. People will be proud to come to and be proud to leave from here because of how we were able to equip them for the ministry in the field,” said Pastor Wiggins.