Stefany Noble joined Christ Community Chapel (then Hudson Community Chapel) in 2006 because she liked it.
She liked the music.
She liked the preaching.
She liked the people.
“Everything was good. But it was a little too big. I couldn’t get to know everybody because there were too many people. I’m very outgoing, so that was kind of hard for me,” said Noble, of Munroe Falls. “And there wasn’t enough color. I could have used a little more diversity.”
All of that changed for Noble two years ago, when the megachurch, which attracts several thousand people to its Sunday worship services, expanded to include a campus in Akron’s Highland Square neighborhood. The campus was launched as part of an intentional effort by the nondenominational evangelical church to become more diverse.
The Akron congregation gathers for worship at 11 a.m. Sundays at Portage Path school, 55 S. Portage Path. It is one of four campuses that make up the Hudson-based Christ Community Chapel. The other two campuses are in Stow and Aurora.
Over the past two years, the Akron site has grown from about 30 members who came from the Hudson church to include an average attendance of 156 each Sunday. About 37 percent of those in attendance are black and more than 60 percent are white. Noble, a native of Indonesia, is among the less than 2 percent who are Asian or Hispanic.
“We’re glad to say we’re not segregated at 11 a.m. on Sunday mornings,” said the Rev. Marshall Brandon, Highland Square campus pastor. “I believe it’s God’s heart that all people — young and old, black and white, from all socioeconomic groups and all ethnicities — should come together and build relationships, so that we can love one another.”
The campus offers small groups that include as many as a dozen people who come together for prayer, conversation, Bible study and other relationship-building activities. The groups typically meet in homes or at the campus office, at 733 W. Market St., Suite 106A.
Other ministries include The Grid, a children’s ministry during worship services; a women’s Bible study group; a community drum circle in Highland Square; a jail ministry; and outreach to single parents. The congregation also has developed partnerships with other ministries and organizations including Akron Pregnancy Services, Truly Reaching You and National Night Out (against crime).
Matt Koons, associate pastor at the Akron campus, said he has been amazed by God’s grace since the campus was established two years ago.
“Although we went in with no expectations, we could never have imagined we would see this kind of growth in this short period of time. We’re doing our best from a human perspective, but ultimately it is God who is blessing us,” Koons said. “The congregation is growing and healthy. We have a group of folks who want to know Christ, who want to grow in their relationships with Christ and with each other and who want to serve.”
Frank Surace is one of those people. The Hudson resident and his wife of 38 years, Ruth, were among the group that left the Hudson campus to be part of the Akron campus. Although the couple lives closer to the Hudson site, they plan to remain at the Highland Square location.
“This is the best move we’ve made in 20 years. Christian love just beams from the congregation. We have become a family. We care about each other and we love one another,” Surace said. “When you walk in on Sundays, you can feel the love of Christ coming through the people. We’re racially and socioeconomically diverse, and we’re all one big family. I think it’s what God intended: to have everyone together.”
Surace leads one of the small groups and is part of the team that sets up and breaks down everything for services on Sundays: video screens, televisions, coffeepots, sound equipment, instruments and materials and equipment for the nursery and children's ministry.
“Working out of what we call ‘church in a box’ can be a challenge, especially when we need to perform weddings and funerals. We’re at a point where we are looking into finding a permanent spot here in Highland Square,” Brandon said. “We’re still in our infancy, trying to figure out what we can do to meet the needs of this community. We want people to know that we’re here and we’re here to stay.”
More information about Christ Community Chapel can be found at www.ccchapel.com. The Highland Square campus can also be reached at 330-794-5343.
Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or firstname.lastname@example.org.