December 25, 2013 - By Meg Peters
Review Staff Writer
It started as a rumor in 2009.
"This lady came up to me and said 'hey, what's this I hear about you meeting in a castle out in Lake Orion?'" Rick Seidel recalled, Lake Orion Campus Pastor for Woodside Bible Church.
Both were at an event for the Michigan based, non-denominational church at Upland Hills School in Oxford. "I was like 'I don't know what you are talking about,'" he said.
Which got him thinking. Seidel brought the notion up to his wife, Lana Seidel, who concurred the only castle she knew of was Canterbury Village.
A couple of weeks later, mid-snowfall in November 2009, Seidel strolled through the Always Christmas Store and became enlightened with a little idea.
"I just began to see it with a vision of what could possibly be here. It's just a beautiful place, especially at that time of year, so warm and inviting. I was thinking something like that could actually make sense," Seidel said.
Through his cousin, Michael Gingell, Seidel met the Aldridges, owners of Canterbury Village, in the spring of 2011.
"The conversation went down the road a little ways but in the end it didn't seem it was the right time for them. They had some other avenues they were exploring, and we were still a young church," Seidel said.
Just last week over 600 churchgoers attended both Sunday services. The Lake Orion campus opened in 2009 with 175 core members.
So they continued to rent Waldon Middle School, looking for more opportunities, "all the while wondering, God what do you have in store for us, because we couldn't seem to find the right location," Seidel said.
Almost two years passed. The inkling twinkled again.
In November Seidel and senior pastor Doug Schmidt re-asked the Aldridges about purchasing the Always Christmas store, ultimately deciding on a signed purchase agreement for the Christmas store.
Technical issues would need to be hashed out through the Orion Township Planning Commission, such as rezoning the 90,000 square foot retail building, and the township would have to vote it in after public hearings, yet Seidel's imagination is running.
"I just have to believe that there will be other opportunities going forward. It's a unique opportunity for the church to be right in the middle of all this other activity, to participate and be a part of the community and not just be a building that sits empty most of the week. Hopefully we can come up with some creative ways to put it to use."
Eventually the space could be used for various kinds of ministries or other ways to serve the community at large, he said, collaborating with charitable organizations and other business in the community.
"'t will be business as usual. Businesses are moving forward, we're not closing or doing anything like that, it's just moving the store from one big building into a couple of smaller buildings," Keith Aldridge said, Vice President of Canterbury Village. More details will be available in the coming weeks.
When Seidel thinks of all the possibilities, he is especially inspired by how the once thriving farm was envisioned into a red and green, jubilant store.
"Breathing new life into it and giving it new purpose, that's exactly what God does with people on a spiritual level and for me that serves as a kind of inspiration for going forward," Seidel said. "Perhaps we can build upon Stan and Sue's dream, and ironically of all things it's a Christmas store—it's always Christmas—and ultimately Christmas is the celebration of Christ and God breaking through into this world. I just find so many layers of irony," he said.
Woodside Bible Church is a non-denominational church, independent to Michigan, with eight other campuses and one internet campus, all acting as one financial unit. The Lake Orion campus has been renting space at Waldon Middle School since October 2009, and moved their offices there around two years ago with a separate agreement.
This move is not only more an investment, but creates a perception of permanence Seidel said.
"Part of the question that everyone has is where are you ultimately going to end up?" Seidel said.
"We want people to know that we are here to stay, and having a building, a place to call home gives a sense of community. If by chance it doesn't work out, it won't be the end of the world, it just means God has something else for us. But we are very excited and hopeful for the potential," he said