Pastor Craig Henry will oversee the location, which will feature a live worship band led by Salem resident Bill Fish and live video feed of Damascus Senior Pastor John Ryser's worship service at 9:30 and 11 a.m. Sundays.
According to Ryser
, the former Southeast Friends Church
was struggling to survive, with attendance down to 25 to 30 people each Sunday.
Being friends with Henry, Ryser
said they started a "what-if" discussion about merging the churches and opening a satellite location.
The first service at the location attracted 233 people, Ryser
The church building was remodeled and expanded to align with Damascus Friends
Projects included removing pews and installing 168 chairs, changing lighting and installing a platform with video monitors and a projection screen in the sanctuary; painting the basement to make the Rainforest children's ministry; installing a cafe corner; and building a welcome center.
There is also an elevator for handicap accessibility.
said the merger focuses on "Corridor 344"- a reference to the areas of Salem, Leetonia, Washingtonville, Franklin Square and Columbiana along state Route 344.
noted that a lot of Damascus Friends attendees travel from those areas and the new location cuts back the driving distances for those people.
More importantly, though, it offers a greater opportunity for members of a growing church to extend their ministries, Ryser
"Damascus Friends Church
has grown and this move opens up opportunities for people who want to serve," he
The Salem location will feature the children's ministry, greeting and worship teams offered at Damascus
said, and will be building connect groups (small Bible study groups) and youth group in the near future.
Longterm goals include a food pantry and Celebrate Recovery addiction support program available at Damascus