By Joi Thomas, Special to the AFRO

June 25 was a landmark day in the history of Set the Captives Free Outreach Center, of Baltimore County. It was the day the church purchased the building formerly known as Seoul Plaza in Woodlawn.

The building at Security Square Mall provides the church with 160,000 square feet to grow their ministry.  To say that the members of Set the Captives Free are excited is an understatement.  They have been praying and giving towards this vision for a long time and God has made it happen.

Dr. Karen Bethea (right), Pastor, Set the Captives Free Outreach Center discusses relocation plans for the church with church leaders. (Courtesy Photos)

Dr. Karen Bethea is the Pastor and founder of the church and for the past 17 years, she has led the congregation from meeting in a hotel room to purchasing this new facility.  She says that God told her five years ago that the former Seoul Plaza would be their home.

When speaking about the process of obtaining the building she stated, “In all honesty I was content with our current building and had many emotions about what God had spoken. Nonetheless, I was sure in what I heard God say and so I began to embrace it,” she said. “We went over and met with the owners of the building (previously), but things did not move forward. We began to realize that this was God’s plan, but we had to wait for his timing.”

The new facility will be known as The O.W.E. Center; O.W.E. stands for Outreach, Worship and Education.  The church took time over the past few years to do an in-depth study of the issues plaguing the community, and based on its findings, designed the O.W.E. center to address many of these concerns and hopefully increase the quality of life for those in the community.  Dr. Bethea is passionate about what will take place at the O.W.E. Center.  “The vision of the O.W.E. Center is much more than a church relocating to a larger facility.  It is a movement to create a community center that will increase the total quality of life for the citizens of Baltimore,” she said.  “It will house weekly worship as well as community outreach and educational programs.”

According to Dr. Bethea, many new initiatives will be implemented at the O.W.E. Center including a youth enrichment center, expansion of the current food pantry that feeds thousands of families each year, workforce development, financial education, a homeless hospitality suite, home ownership campaign, and a re-entry program.

Some of these programs will solely be church driven, while others will be partnerships with existing organizations.

The church is actively preparing for this transition. “We are in the process now of finalizing the construction phases and the transition from our current building to our new home,” said Dr. Bethea. “This transition will include closing down our current youth center and administrative offices building, which are located in another building walking distance from our sanctuary building. At this moment we have an idea but cannot give an exact move in date. One thing we can tell you for sure is that there will be a big open house and celebration that all will be invited to rejoice with us.”