Tuesday, August 9, 2022

The Orchard Oxford Opens in New, Bigger, Artistic Location

The Orchard Oxford has a knack for making a home and house of worship in former funeral homes. In August 2014, the church moved its congregation just a few miles, from one funeral home to another, now located on Highway 7 North. With a larger space, more parking, and better equipment, The Orchard hosted its largest service ever in the new facility on August 17.

Church members help install the new sign in front of the new church.
Church members help install the new sign in front of the new church. /Photo courtesy of The Orchard Oxford

Nearly 500 people packed into the sanctuary that Sunday. According to Pastor Pat Ward, The Orchard generally hosts just one service throughout the summer as families are traveling more and students are away. That’s why Ward and The Orchard staff used August 17 as a “soft launch” of sorts before the biggest Sunday of the year.
“The last Sunday in August is always big. We needed a week to get settled in the new facility and work out the technology hiccups,” Ward said. “But we will be back and ready for two services on Sunday, August 24.”
Ward added that the new facility affords far more opportunities to inspire the congregation than ever before. Everything from the increase in natural light, to a bigger sanctuary, bigger screens used during services, expanded children’s areas, and ample parking has allowed The Orchard to create a better experience for all.
Even the small things, like moving from two 55 inch TVs in the sanctuary to two large projection screens and an improved sound system makes the experience that much better and much more inspiring, Ward said.
“We are really excited about something to share…about creating common ground here,” Ward said in a video announcing the church’s move. “Between our church and our city, between the faith community and the arts community in Oxford.”
Ward added that The Orchard hopes to renew and strengthen the church’s connection with and appreciation of the arts – all kinds of arts. The new church features an art gallery in the main hall and hopes to serve the community as an arts venue, not just a church. In fact, the first art gallery installment was created on August 21, featuring work by local artists Benny Melton, Toni Joyner, and Morgan Fyfe, who are members of The Orchard.
The first sermon series in the new Orchard facility will be about art as a creative and faithful outlet. Church members will add their talents, such as music and songwriting, to the weekly church services.
“The church and art used to be much more intertwined,” Ward said. “We want this to be an outlet for community members to express their artistic talents.”
The Orchard will host two worship services starting Sunday, August 24 at 9 and 11 a.m. Information about church activities, services, meetings and more, can be found at www.theorchardoxford.net or The Orchard Oxford on Facebook. Be sure to also follow The Orchard on Instagram (@theorchardoxford) and Twitter. The Orchard Oxford is now located at 295 Highway 7 North.
The Orchard is located at 296 Highway 7 North in Oxford.
The Orchard is located at 296 Highway 7 North in Oxford. /Photo by Kate Wallace

Volunteers who helped prepare the new church facility this summer signed their names, documenting their hard work.
Volunteers who helped prepare the new church facility this summer signed their names, documenting their hardy work. /Photo by Kate Wallace

The children have their own art gallery in the church.
The children have their own art gallery in the church. /Photo by Kate Wallace

More than 500 people attended the first service in the new Orchard location.
More than 500 people attended the first service in the new Orchard location. /Photo courtesy of The Orchard Oxford.

The Children have more classrooms than ever to learn, play and be inspired.
The Children have more classrooms than ever to learn, play and be inspired. /Photo Courtesy of The Orchard Oxford.

About The Orchard
“I feel like God was calling Sarah and I to start the church, but in that, did he tell us that were going to move into a funeral home and start a church there? Or that we’d outgrown it and move into another funeral home and start a church there? The answer is no,” The Orchard’s pastor Pat Ward said when he first announced the big move to the congregation on March 23. “But he has allowed us to move into properties that have given us life… but has not distracted us.”
The Orchard's new logo by Vaugh Designs.
The Orchard’s new logo by Vaughn Design. /Photo courtesy of The Orchard Oxford.

The Orchard was started in Tupelo, Miss. in 1998 and grew rapidly, but the group saw a need for a contemporary version of the gospel in Oxford. There are now four Orchards throughout the area, including two in Tupelo, one in Bladwin and, of course, one in Oxford.
Ward and his wife, Sarah, hosted the small congregation in their living room for nearly a year before setting up shop in the Powerhouse Community Arts Center in 2007.
The church met at the Powerhouse, then The Amp movie theatre, then back to the Powerhouse when The Amp closed. The Orchard even hosted an evening service on the balcony at Rooster’s on the Square.
It wasn’t until five years ago that The Orchard found a permanent home in Oxford. The old Hodges Funeral Home on Molly Barr Road sat empty for a year before the church began retrofitting the facility for its steadily growing congregation.
“We really didn’t think about the funeral home aspect until after we moved in and people started talking about it,” Ward said. “A funeral home really is perfect for a church.”
– Written by Kate Wallace, assistant editor, HottyToddy.com. She can be contacted via email at kate.wallace@hottytoddy.com

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