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After 8 years of trials, building of Pastor Marvin Winans’

New Perfecting Church back on track 


Pastor Marvin Winans stands on the roof of the future 5,000-seat home of his Perfecting Church in Detroit in June.By John Gallagher

Detroit Free Press


Pastor Marvin Winans stands on the roof of the future 5,000-seat home of his Perfecting Church in Detroit

Pastor Marvin Winans held the first service of his Perfecting Church in the basement of his Detroit home. He had eight members then, back in 1989, and since then he has moved his growing congregation into ever-larger venues — a local inn, a borrowed church, a school.

Now, Winans looks forward with prayer and hope to the long-delayed completion of the Perfecting Church’s future home, a 5,000-seat mega-church on Woodward Avenue just north of 7 Mile Road.

Construction started roughly eight years ago. Since then, the work has lagged, stalled and stopped cold when the money ran out. But now work has started again, and the pastor, perhaps better known as a member of the Grammy-award-winning family gospel group the Winans, led visitors around the roughly 15-acre site last month, beaming with pride and faith.

“We were moving right along and then we discovered we couldn’t borrow any money, so we shut down, and then we just started moving again,” he said. “It’s just a work of faith, just praying and believing that we were doing what we should be doing.”

Winans’ 4,500-member congregation meets today in an already large complex of buildings at Nevada and Van Dyke on Detroit’s east side. But the new Perfecting Church will be huge in every way.

Besides the 5,000-seat sanctuary, the complex will feature a 500-seat wedding chapel, meeting rooms that can seat 1,000 people, a thousand-space parking garage, a baptism pool large enough to accommodate a whole family, classrooms, administrative offices, a bookstore and a kitchen — “you have to eat when you come to church,” Winans says with a smile.

Today the walls and roof are on, but the ground floor is still dirt underfoot, and fabric sheeting installed over window openings flaps in the breeze. High above the ground, steel beams bear white-painted Bible verses, put there during a topping-out celebration. Winans hopes to finish the work and move in by this time next year.

“It looks kind of primitive now,” Winans admits, “but it’s going to be absolutely beautiful when it’s finished.”

Now 53 and a fourth-generation preacher, Winans set goals for the project that were hugely ambitious. The plan originally included acres of residential development, but that fell away during the real estate crash. Nearby residents and civic leaders got worried when the project stalled, fearing a huge half-finished project sitting there for years.

Today, Heather Carmona, executive director of the Woodward Avenue Action Association, a civic group, expects the church to play a strong role along a strip of Woodward considered by some to lack purpose or identity.

“It’s been such an under-defined district within the city of Detroit,” she said. “And that’s what I think this church could help do, bring the active engagement of a strong stakeholder.”

Nearby neighbors say they’re happy the church is moving ahead.

“The general sentiment I have heard from neighbors is that we are very pleased to see that the church is constructing a beautiful new edifice in our community, and we will be happy when construction is completed and they are ready to move into their new church home,” said Craig Vanderburg, president of the Palmer Woods Association.

Many of Detroit’s earlier church buildings took time, too. Detroit’s Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, seat of the Roman Catholic archdiocese, was built initially in 1915, but its towers were completed only in the 1950s. The Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. Paul at 4800 Woodward, which opened in 1911, was designed to support a tower that has yet to be built.

During his site visit, Winans scales outdoor ladders to the rooftop of the church, where a gigantic silvery cross towers 128 feet above the streets, visible for blocks. He muses that this mega-church may one day have to give way to something even bigger.

“I don’t want to say we’re done because we never want to stop helping people,” he says. “And that’s the ministry is about. … This will do for now, but every place we’ve gone, we’ve outgrown.”

And from this rooftop, with the cross towering above him, Winans gazes south across the treetops to the distant towers of downtown.

“I think Detroit is such a wonderful, city, I really do,” he says softly. “I’m going to heaven from Detroit.”