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HomeNewsRedemption Church Looks for New Church Property, Cites High Crime Downtown

Redemption Church Looks for New Church Property, Cites High Crime Downtown

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Redemption Church Looks for New Church Property, Cites High Crime Downtown

News Story by Nina Culver

This news story was made possible by contributions to FāVS from readers like you. Thank you.

When people get off Interstate 90 at Division Street, they are greeted by the spire of Redemption Church at the corner on Second Avenue. Though the busy corner has been home to the church since it opened in 2014, rising crime in the neighborhood has led church leadership to list the church for sale so they can move to a different location.

They’re not the first to call it quits. Last year the Starbucks across the street closed, also citing the high crime for their decision.

Redemptions’ lead pastor, the Rev. Miles Rohde, in the sanctuary of the church / Photo by Nina Culver (SpokaneFāVS)

Redemptions’ lead pastor, the Rev. Miles Rohde, said he’s heard some downtown businesses complain about sometimes finding used needles or human feces outside their front door, but it’s far worse for the church.

“We just call that a Monday,” he said. “It’s every day.”

Families with young children are sometimes confronted in the church parking lot on the way to Sunday services. People no longer feel safe coming to the church in the evenings. Just two weeks ago a man who was either high or having a mental health crisis tried to shove his way inside as people arrived for services.

“He’s calling me some demonic names and I’m blocking him,” Rohde said.

In June of 2021, 10 gunshots rang out at a drive-by shooting at the 7-Eleven on the opposite corner. Rohde, who was preaching, watched his congregation dive for the floor.

“All the kids were there,” he said. “That was frightening.”

In October, a person was murdered two blocks away at 8:30 on a Sunday morning.

“I heard six gunshots in my office as I’m preparing (for church),” he said.

Redemption Spokane was a plant of the Mars Hill megachurch in Seattle when the building was purchased in June 2014. But Mars Hill imploded amid allegations of impropriety against its charismatic founder, Mark Driscoll. When Mars Hill dissolved near the end of 2014, the churches it planted were told they could become independent. Rohde compared it to a premature birth.

“As Mars Hill was dying, we were still doing plant work,” he said. “We hadn’t even had a public service yet.”

That first service was held on Jan. 4, 2015. The church struggled at first, but soon began to grow. At the time, there was transient activity in the neighborhood, but nothing bad, Rohde said.

“There were people on the steps, but you got to know them,” he said. “They were local. Over time, the regulars, for lack of a better term, they got pushed out.”

Things changed before COVID shut things down in 2020. The criminal element took over and soon there were drug deals outside Starbucks and pimps looking for customers. Vandalism and property damage increased. People have overdosed on fentanyl on the church steps.

“Genuine homelessness, where they desire help, we don’t see it anymore,” he said.  

Through it all Rohde was concerned about the safety of his congregation.

“The longer we stay here, is something going to happen?” he said. “We used to use the church multiple days a week and evenings, and we can’t do that anymore because of security concerns.”

But the last straw was a notice the church got in October that their insurance carrier was going to drop them as of Jan. 1. The church had been paying $900 a month, but quotes from new insurance companies went as high as $6,000, well over the $4,500 paid for the monthly mortgage.

At the last minute the church was able to sign up for insurance for $3,000 a month.

“That’s not sustainable,” he said. “We were turned down by at least 14 other companies.”

A membership meeting was held in November and Rohde said the congregation was unanimous in support of the decision to sell the building and move. He said it felt like a huge burden had been lifted.

“We’re compassion fatigued at times here,” he said. “That’s the staff, not the members.”

The asking price for the property is $2 million and includes the church, an education wing and a large parking lot.

“It’ a quarter of a city block,” he said.

Rohde said the Spokane Police Department has been making an extra effort to patrol the area more frequently in the last month, and he has noticed a big improvement. But the simple fact is that the church can’t afford to keep paying $3,000 a month for insurance. The church is small, with the average Sunday service drawing 90 adults and 70 children.

Still, the possibility of change is in the wind. Rohde said he has a meeting set with the chief of police this week and the mayor next week. But even then, there would have to be a miracle to allow Redemption Spokane to stay, Rohde said.

“We believe that could happen, but something dramatic would have to happen,’” he said. “I don’t know how a church will survive in this location without something changing.”

This news story was made possible by contributions to FāVS from readers like you. Thank you.

Nina Culver
Nina Culver
Nina Culver is a freelance journalist and North Idaho native who has called Spokane home for the last 30 years. She started working at The Spokesman-Review in 1995 as a work study intern while still a journalism student at Gonzaga University and stuck around for the next 22 years, covering everything from religion to crime. She has an adult daughter and two grandsons who keep her hopping and if she has any free time she likes to read.

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