Potential sale of Avon church stirs community passions

By on September 12, 2023

The Heritage Church of Avon is listed for sale at $1.2 million. (Kip Tabb/OBV)

In an emotionally charged meeting, a small gathering of Avon residents met at the Avon Fire station on the evening of Friday, Sept. 8 hoping to stop any potential sale of the Heritage Church of Avon. The church, located on Harbor Road in Avon, is owned by Bryan Gray Ministries according to Dare County tax records and is currently listed for sale for $1.2 million.

Although Dare County records list the building as dating from 1970, multiple people at the meeting were adamant that the 1970 date actually reflects a modern addition that was added to the original building. The original church building is believed to date from the late 1920s.

In an interview after the meeting, Karen Midgette told the story of how the church came to be built by her grandfather, Alvin Price.

Midgette said that Price was an alcoholic until he found God and was saved. “That’s when he started doing things for the church,” she recounted. “He gave the [Avon] property for the church, and…what happened, the people came together and built the church. Everybody just donated their time and whatever they could donate, and they built the church,” she said.

Although she does not have an exact date when her grandfather donated the property, she is confident it was in the 1920s.

The church was an Assembly of God congregation and remained part of the Assembly of God until about the year 2000, recalled Wayne Hooper, a local resident who spoke at the Sept. 8 meeting. That association with the Assembly of God ended when Bryan Gray became the pastor. Gray grew up in Avon and a number of people there have known him since he was a child.

Some people at the meeting described Gray as embracing Prosperity Gospel as a religious philosophy. Prosperity Gospel believes that, according to the Britannica website, “God wants believers to be richly blessed in this life and that physical well-being and material riches are always God’s will for the faithful. Illness and poverty are seen as curses.”

“The Assemblies of God does not believe in that doctrine…They have position papers against it,” Hooper stated.

With Gray as pastor of the church, a vote of the governing board of the church pulled it out of the Assembly of God fold, voting 18-5 to become an independent church, Hooper told the assembly. His memory of the vote count was confirmed by other audience members.

“That was by the will of the people and that’s the way the bylaws were set up at that time,” Hooper said. “That part was legal. Whether it’s moral or not, that’s a different question.”

Avon residents at the fire station meeting said that over the next 20 years, the congregation shrank significantly, with no services being held since sometime in 2021.

The details of how Bryan Gray Ministries became the owner of the church and property are not certain. But there is a Dare County land transfer document dated Dec. 15, 2021, giving Bryan Gray Ministries ownership of the church. The transfer type is listed as a gift.

There was, among the people who at one time attended the church, a palpable sense of betrayal and grief at the Sept. 8 meeting.

Midgette’s sister, Amy Scarborough, broke down in tears as she recounted the memories of her time in the church. She began talking about the piano as part of the service.

Gray “stopped that,” she said.” He gave it away. The pews in the church he gave away. My grandfather, who helped start the church, had a plaque on the wall. He took that down.”

Scarborough was not the only person to cry when recounting what has happened to the church. After her son Maurice died while serving in the Navy in 2009, Sandy Quidley noted, “This was where I buried my son, in that church.”

At this point, it is unclear what the next steps are the Avon residents will take. A committee was formed at the meeting. One of the possible outcomes of that, based on what was discussed, is the possibility of retaining legal counsel.

Bryan Gray did not respond when contacted for comment on the story.


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Comments

  • surf123

    Should be trivial to figure out who gifted it and fairly obvious it was going to be sold so the buyer could cash out. Someone had to sign the paperwork which is recorded with the register of deeds and readily accessible.

    Tuesday, Sep 12 @ 10:46 am
  • WindyBill

    He probably thinks that he will be forgiven.

    Tuesday, Sep 12 @ 1:00 pm
  • Jay

    If the residents are upset about the sale then buy it and put it to good use.

    Tuesday, Sep 12 @ 1:43 pm
  • TITLE

    A search of the North Carolina Secretary of State Business records showed that Faith Life Worship Center, formerly known as Avon Worship Center, was incorporated in 1993, and and made amendments to its articles in 2014 with Bryan Gray signing as president.

    The North Carolina Gift Deed referenced in this article was recorded at Book 2574 Page 275. The Grantor was “Faith Life Worship Center” a North Carolina Nonprofit. The Grantee was Bryan Gray Ministries. Signed by Barbara Austin as Treasurer for Faith Life Worship Center.

    Searching “Faith Life” in the Dare County Register of Deeds, there are several hits showing / going back to 2015. A deed of trust recorded at Book 2004 Page 657 shows that Bryan Gray, Mary Sye Gray, and Barbara Austin all signed as grantors / trustees of the church. The principal note amount was $128,500.00. Satisfactions for the deed of trust appear to have been recorded in August 2020.

    Searching “Avon Worship” in the Dare County Register of Deeds, there are several hits showing going back to 2005, where at Book 1656 Page 475 where Wayne Hooper as Deacon, Collins Gray as Deacon, Bonnie Gray as Deacon, Timothy Cooper as Pastor, collectively the grantors conveyed a deed of trust to East Carolina Bank principal amount $20,000.00. Satisfaction recorded at Book 1674 Page 204. References that the land in question was more specifically described on the map or plat Book 214 Page 809.

    Book 214 Page 809 dated August 1, 1974 grantors Collins Gray, Charlie Gray, and Ralph Fredrickson as trustees of the Assembly of God Church of Avon obtained a deed of trust in the amount of $20,000.00. Specifically references that the lands in question were originally described as “conveyed to the Trustees of Assembly of God Church by James W. Scarborough by deed dated January 15, 1952 recorded Book 52 Page 326.

    Book 52 Page 326 shows that James Scarborough deeded the land in question to Trustees of Assembly of God Church and their successors of Avon for $125.00.

    Wednesday, Sep 13 @ 6:57 am
  • Arthur

    organized religion, thankfully is dying. This ‘church’ hasnt been active in 2 years and had a minimal congretation. Have Dare county buy it and turn it in to affordable housing or let a private citizen buy it and make it into a cool house

    Wednesday, Sep 13 @ 10:17 am
  • Dave

    It took 71 years for 125.00$ to maybe turn into 1.2mil…..

    Wednesday, Sep 13 @ 11:54 am
  • Charles

    Looks like a great place for a wine bar…..

    Wednesday, Sep 13 @ 4:16 pm
  • Jeffrey Smith

    Usually, when an independent church folds, the Board of Deacons will liquidate assets and distribute the proceeds to qualified mission organizations.

    The transfer is the issue here, not the history of the building. It sounds slimy.

    Saturday, Sep 16 @ 7:27 am