By Stan Friedman
CHICAGO, IL (May 6, 2013) – Jesus People USA Covenant Church (JPUSA) recently sold a majority of the 670 acres of its property in Bushnell, Illinois – where tens of thousands of people once attended Cornerstone festivals – in order to advance other areas of ministry.
“This was a painful decision,” said John Herrin, JPUSA’s business manager. “We have enjoyed 21 years of stewarding this place and became quite attached. It served dual purposes as both a home to Cornerstone Festival and a retreat site that is a much-needed place of rest for our members from the rigors of inner-city ministry.”
The final festival was held in 2012. The church ended the festivals due to high costs.
Sale of the property was completed in late April. JPUSA retains title to an 83-acre parcel in the southern end of the property. The entire “Wildwood Lake” was included in the purchase.
“The total sale came to approximately $1.9 million, and after paying off the existing campground mortgage, we were able to apply over $1 million right back into our new church building,” said Herrin.
Jesus People is rehabbing a warehouse located across from its headquarters known as “Friendly Towers.” The church has used the warehouse for several decades for purposes that ranged from offices to a mechanics garage.
In its new incarnation, the 47,000-square-foot structure will be converted into a multi-purpose building the church has named Wilson Abbey. It will house a concert hall and worship space with a 500-seat capacity, as well as JPUSA’s school.
The building also will include a retail coffee shop, playhouse theater, recording studio, and numerous offices and facilities for other JPUSA ministries.
The church had needed to find a site for its school after the city refused to renew the license for an aging Catholic school that JPUSA had rented for many years, Herrin said. “We felt it was time for the church and our school to finally have a more permanent home.”
Herrin said he is grateful for the guidance given by National Covenant Properties (NCP), which had helped JPUSA purchase and upgrade the campgrounds. “Once again NCP brainstormed with us and jointly we realized that in order to make this new dream a reality, we were going to need to reduce our extraneous expenses and utilize whatever assets we had available.”
Herrin said that although the decision to sell the property has been painful, “We are thankful for all the memories and excitedly looking ahead to this next challenge. We hope to open the facility this summer with a full schedule including weekly church services and concerts.”
Herrin added that other nonprofits have expressed interest in renting office space.