Faith-Based Low-Cost Auto Repair Ministry Must Move Due to Zoning
The ministry in Virginia has until the end of the month to relocate.
Mechanics of Faith has been performing low-cost auto repairs in the back parking lot of New Life Baptist Church in Henrico County, Virginia, since 2019.
Now, because of a complaint lodged with the county, they have until the end of January to find a new location for their operations that serve several dozen people every month.
“We have no idea who complained,” Erika Allen, service manager for Mechanics of Faith, told MinistryWatch. They had never had neighbors complain about the outdoor operations behind the church. She said they are careful in keeping the area from becoming an eyesore, but some big jobs can take weeks.
The county’s spokesperson Eric Leabough said the operation of an auto repair business on the church grounds violates the residential zoning designation, according to WRIC News in Richmond.
While churches are able to operate in residential zoning districts, auto repair businesses are not, Leabough added.
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Recently, local governments have taken action against churches using their facilities for other uses aside from worship. For example, during the frigid temperatures in early January, several churches were fined for operating shelters.
In one such case, Chris Avell, pastor of Dad’s Place in Bryan, Ohio, was served with 18 criminal charges for zoning violations because Ohio law does not allow residential use in first-floor buildings in a business district. First Liberty Institute filed suit in federal court on behalf of Avell and Dad’s Place last week.
Mechanics of Faith founder Jason Wells felt called to use his skills and abilities to “give hope to those who feel lost and are losing hope in the world because they lack transportation.”
The nonprofit ministry started in 2019 can perform most auto repairs at 80% below the market price. Repairs from oil changes and brake jobs to more complex transmission repairs and engine exchanges are completed by two staff mechanics, plus volunteer mechanics who give their time and skills to the ministry.
“We helped over 186 people in 2023,” Wells told WRIC.
The ministry needs to find a two- or three-bay shop in a commercially-zoned area before the end of January.
“We’ve been getting great support,” Allen said. She encouraged donations to help fund the rental or purchase of a shop so they can “keep helping and blessing people.”