The former St. Jude Catholic Church campus has been given new life.
With fresh coats of paint and many hours of hard work, River Valley Church now calls 3800 Viking Drive home. The transformation really has meshed the old with the new, creating what Pastor Lowell Kenyan calls a modern twist on a traditional church.
“It’s a one of a kind setting – the trees and greenery outside combined with the architectural style of the buildings,” he said. “We are completely surrounded by God’s creations and we’re able to enjoy it in the place where we worship.”
This is the fourth move for the church, which was founded in 1999. Their first church service was held Easter Sunday in the cafeteria at Greenacres Middle School.
Then they moved down the street into the old Bossier YMCA on Douglas Drive. When Bossier Parish Community College finished building its campus on East Texas Street, River Valley moved into their old space, which happened to be right next door to the YMCA.
Though the plan has always been to construct a church, it was left to be done in God’s time. A few years ago they purchased six acres of land at I-220 and Shed Road to begin building their church home.
However, an opportunity arose during the final stages of planning to tour the St. Jude campus. After looking at what it had to offer, Kenyan asked himself one question – “do we fit here?”
The answer was yes and the property was purchased. Along with 24 acres of land, the sanctuary provided seating for more than 400 people, twice the size at the previous location.
They decided to basically wipe the slate clean and start fresh. Justin Mathis, Kid’s Pastor at River Valley Church, said the existing sanctuary was rebuilt from its bare skeletal structure.
“This building has a lot of character and it’s really pretty,” Mathis said. “It’s already an established part of this community so we wanted to make it feel even more inviting.”
The wooden pews were removed and replaced with movie theater style seats. They constructed a brand new stage and also installed projector screens and flat screen televisions to use during worship services.
A major part of reconstruction was removing the asbestos, which Kenyan said St. Jude was very gracious and helped with the abatement.
There are a few things they didn’t modernize though.
“We loved the look of the auditorium so we didn’t cover up the bricks and beams,” Kenyan said. “It’s a very nice blend of the old with the new.”
It took three months to get the church operational. The first service held in their new home was, again, Easter Sunday.
The church offices are still under construction and they hope to break ground on a new 6,000-square-foot building for its teen ministry in a few weeks. Mathis said they would eventually like to start a community food bank as another way to serve the community.
River Valley Church is an “evangelical, all-denominational” gathering of “everyday people in search of a real relationship with God,” their website states. Their mission is to turn “everyday people into whole-hearted followers of Christ.”
Worship services are upbeat with modern music set in a casual and friendly atmosphere. Kenyan said they are not only hoping to grow the campus, but continue growing numerically.
Mathis extended an invitation to those looking for a church family to visit the church and see what it has to offer them.
“If you’re looking for a church home, this is a great place to get plugged in and grow with us. There are lots of opportunities here for all age groups,” Mathis added. “We want to serve this community in any way we can.”