From the very beginning Harvest Time was challenged by the space demands that accompany rapid growth. After just six months of meeting at the Greenwich YMCA, the congregation moved to larger rented facilities at the Western Greenwich Civic Center. A few years later, multiple Sunday morning services were added to keep up with the growth. The congregation began praying, gathering funds and researching the real estate market to find a permanent home.
In the autumn of 1989, the Board of Deacons and Trustees ventured out on a rainy evening to see a parcel of property for sale in the far northwest corner of Greenwich. As they stepped out of the van, the Holy Spirit moved upon one of the Board members: "Take off your shoes," he said, "for this is holy ground!" As the Board prayer-walked the ground, some felt certain that this property was the Lord's destiny for Harvest Time. Following that evening, further inquiries into the property led to a dead end.
Several years later, Harvest Time was still thriving at the Western Greenwich Civic Center when news came in January of 1997 that the Town of Greenwich had decided to close the facility. The Town replaced the church's three-year lease with a month-to-month rental agreement that included a 30-day termination clause. A search committee was immediately convened to find a new home for Harvest Time.
For months the committee investigated existing structures that could be modified for the church's use. Warehouses, office buildings, a greenhouse and a bowling alley were among the properties reviewed. With each new lead, the committee began to identify several recurring obstacles to renovating an existing structure. These included the initial purchase price (some buildings were listed for as much as $17 million!), lack of parking, zoning restrictions and the inability to create an adequate sanctuary space.
Finally, the committee concluded that Harvest Time needed a property that could be developed to accommodate the current and future needs of the congregation. The committee set parameters for a property search, including a 10-acre minimum, a Greenwich address, and zoning potential. In autumn 1997, Harvest Time placed a bid on a 25-acre section of a 100+ acre property on King Street: no reply was received.
We've come a long way!
In January 1998 the committee decided to draft a "cold call" letter introducing Harvest Time and our property search to Greenwich property owners. On Sunday morning, February 1, 1998 the entire congregation gathered at the altar to lay hands and pray over a heap of more than 250 letters. A few days after the letters were sent, we received the one and only response-it was from the owner of a 10.5 acre parcel at 1338 King Street! Shortly after our first telephone contact, the search committee and Board went to view the property and learned that it met every one of our criteria. A week later a purchase price was negotiated and Harvest Time shook hands on the deal.
As the story of 1338 King Street unfolded, we began to discover the manifold providence of God in the transaction. The property was owned by a group of five investors who purchased the property in the 1960s. The group hoped to realize a profit by selling the property to a development project connected to the Westchester County Airport. Unfortunately, they underestimated the determination of the Greenwich Planning and Zoning Commission to keep airport expansion at bay. Over the 30+ years that the group owned 1338 King Street, no less than 22 development projects proposed for the site were rejected by Greenwich Planning and Zoning, including a Marriott hotel, an assisted care facility and a driving range. When Harvest Time's letter reached the investment group, only one of the original five investors remained alive. In the midst of his own health crisis, the estates of the other four partners were urging for the immediate liquidation of the property. These circumstances, combined with the owner's good will toward the church, helped Harvest Time to negotiate a purchase price that represented half of the original asking price.
At the time that Harvest Time was moving to contract on our property, Brunswick School surprised the commercial real estate market with the announcement that they were purchasing the entire 100+-acre tract of land on King Street to the south of 1338. This dramatically impacted the land values on King Street in two ways. First, Brunswick obtained most of the remaining land in Greenwich that was suitable for large scale commercial/institutional development. And, second, Brunswick's presence significantly increased the desirability of King Street for other institutional development. Almost a year after Harvest Time closed on 1338 King Street the value of the land had increased by approximately $4 million!
Another way God undertook for Harvest Time was the reversal of the Town's decision to close the Civic Center following public outcry in the summer and autumn of 1997. Although a series of town meetings in the Civic Center auditorium pressured local politicians to keep the facility open, Harvest Time's use of the building also underwent intense scrutiny and criticism. Thanks to the efforts of Pete Mandras and Joe Siciliano of the Greenwich Parks and Recreation Department, Harvest Time was allowed to continue to meet at the Civic Center. During the following six years that Harvest Time continued to call the Civic Center "home," the congregation was able to raise funds, design and build its new home.
On Sunday, October 17, 1999, the congregation boarded buses and rode to King Street to dedicate our new property. Reminiscent of that night long ago, groups walked the property in the pouring rain to consecrate the land for the Lord. In fall 2000 Harvest Time launched the "Into the Field Campaign," to help gather the financial resources to build. In April 2001, the congregation boarded buses once again and traveled to King Street for the groundbreaking ceremony. Throughout the course of the construction, the congregation experienced miracle after miracle of the Lord's provision for the $6.5 million project. After five years of prayer, planning, fund-raising and construction, Harvest Time celebrated its 20th anniversary in the newly completed church facility on December 7, 2003. The congregation moved permanently to the new building in February 2004, where it has continued to experience rapid growth. Just a few months after Harvest Time's departure, the Western Greenwich Civic Center closed its doors for a three year renovation. To God be the Glory for all He has done!
Today we are again challenged by the need for more space to accommodate our growing congregation, and we are currently constructing our Phase 2 Sanctuary, which will seat 1,000 people.