Downtown Mission Church sprouts in OTTS Garage
Mitchell A. Skurzewski
A long-time staple of downtown Merrill will soon be home to a church for the second time.
OTTS Garage, located next to Cosmo Theater, has been an after-school teen center for years. Now, for the second time it is home to a new church in Merrill, as Journey Church was formerly in Otts before they purchased a building on the southeast side of Merrill. Downtown Mission Church started in Wausau in 2012 and planted its second campus in Stevens Point in 2015. Their third campus in Merrill has been meeting on Thursday evenings since March.
In response to what the church will mean for the community, Pastor Justin Novitski said, “We are excited about taking the gospel message to the community. People are looking for authenticity in this day in age and we are looking forward to developing authentic, gospel-centered relationships.”
Novitski has served as the youth pastor at Merrill Bible Church for the last five years and manages OTTS Garage. The Oswald family owned the OTTS Garage building for more than a decade and have recently donated the building to Downtown Mission Church.
Sunday church services aren’t underway yet and the start of those is dependent on financial support. Novitski estimates late 2019 or early 2020 before Sunday church services are conducted.
There is a Cafe Night held at 6:30 p.m. every Thursday with a gospel-centered message from lead pastor Charlie Salamone, a Q&A session, snacks and fellowship.
“All are welcome, and we invite people to come as you are,” says Novitski. “We provide a relaxed environment without relaxing the gospel message.”
Novitski said there is already a nice start to the church with 30 to 40 people at the regular cafe nights.
“We have a good mix of demographics from families with kids, young adults to elderly,” he said. “I am looking forward to what this church can do for 20-some-year-olds, who really need a place of community as well.”
For now, the church doubles with the youth after-school activity center; offering foosball, air hockey and pool tables. It is unclear how much of the programs of OTTS Garage will remain, but Novitski says to expect more activities this fall including after school programs and special events like concerts.