News for the Neighborhood
Friends Church
After raising $1.5 million to remodel the old packing house, Pastor Jay Hewitt led Friends Church in a “Renovate Celebrate” event after the congregation’s move three years ago.
Friends Church Orange
 
The historical Orange packing house was once a place for sorting and processing fruit and in recent years stood abandoned.  That changed three years ago when Friends Church moved in.  Led by Pastor Jay Hewitt, Friends Church has made its mark in the community and on its members.
 
“We’re very lucky that the people who fill our building match the name that’s out front,” says Hewitt.  “When people walk in, they feel welcome, and they’re able to find genuine community rather quickly.”
 
Friends Church is a community filled with honesty and free from judgment, says member and former Director of Operations, Nancy Foster.  “The church is a place where it doesn’t matter where you are in your life or what your experiences are.  You’re just accepted,” she says.
 
With more than 1,000 members, the Evangelical church, located in Old Towne, has grown quickly, and Hewitt is proud to lead the congregation.
 
“Our members are really authentic, fun people, trying to build their spiritual lives,” he says.  “It’s an honor for me to play a part in that transformation and help people develop that side of themselves.”
 
Last year, when Hewitt was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor, he shared his experience with the congregation and was astonished at their immediate support.
 
“It was so special for me to see how the congregation really pulled together—to pray for me and even continue the ministry of the church,” says Hewitt.  “The experience also emphasized the care that we have for one another, which I experienced firsthand.”
 
Hewitt was out for four months.  “In something that seems miraculous, I have been healed and returned a hundred percent recovered,” says the pastor, who now tells his story often.  “We all, at some point in our lives, go through some medical hiccup or hardship.  A lot of people have found comfort and encouragement in my experience.”
 
That’s not the only miracle that has occurred for Friends Church.  Prior to the church moving into the packing house, the building was riddled with crime and had police officers reporting to the scene weekly.  At the church’s renovation event, Hewitt says that officers displayed graphs that indicated there had been zero crime activity since Friends Church opened.
 
“Officers came up to me personally and thanked me.  They told me that they used to walk through the building fearing for their safety,” says Hewitt.  “Now they’re so glad that it isn’t a spot for crime anymore.”
 
Hewitt was inspired by the renovation of the packing house and hopes to continue making changes—not just structurally, but also spiritually—throughout the City of Orange.
 
“As we see it, our renovation project is a wider project,” he says.  “We started with the building and are now working to enrich people’s lives.  We want to be known as a generous church that consistently reaches beyond our four walls to help meet needs in our community.”
 
Friends Church Orange
426 West Almond Ave., Orange CA 92866  /  714-777-7300

Published in the Nov/Dec 2018 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review

Written by Yuki Klotz-Burwell, Photograph by Jeanine Hill

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