By the end of 2018 it will take less than a minute for Pastor Gregory Fries of Victory Life Church to walk to work. A new building is being constructed at 1502 Rose Ave. in New Haven, just across the driveway from his home. Not that he has far to go now because the present church is located less than 5 minutes away at 1031 Middle St. in one of the city’s oldest church structures.
“Our congregation has expanded to around 150 members,” said Fries, “and we’re simply outgrowing the Middle Street facility. Now that the weather is moderating, we’re hoping the construction pace will increase so we can conduct our Christmas service in the new building.”
For Fries, the new building represents a couple of significant firsts. In the 30 years he has led the local assembly, this will be the first time to be in a brand new building and the first time he will actually have an office other than in his home.
The new 12,000-square-foot building, which is being built by Konkle Builders of Fort Wayne and financed by First Merchants Bank, will have a sanctuary that will seat 264 and is designed to be expanded to 350. It features a large fellowship hall with kitchen, five classrooms, a nursery and the office. The sanctuary will have all new seating, sound and video systems. Electric pianos and other musical instruments will be relocated from the old church. Parking spaces for 57 vehicles will be available.
Fries and his wife, Patricia, were called to New Haven by a small group of people who were in need of a minister in 1987. At that time it was called New Hope Apostolic Church and was located in a small building behind the post office. He had been assisting at his brother’s church in Celina, Ohio. A few years later he had a chapel constructed on his Rose Avenue property where the congregation met for eight years before moving into the Middle Street church.
Born in Ohio, Fries was raised in International Falls, Minn., where he met his wife in high school. They were married while he was serving in the U.S. Army. He studied to be a minister through the Apostolic Church and was licensed by the Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ. His first church was in International Falls, where he served for five years.
“I’m extremely proud of the way our church has grown. My vision is to expand it to more than 300 members,” he said. “My goal and that of my assistant pastor, Craig St. Myers, and associate pastor, Paul Peconge, is at that point to branch out and establish assemblies in other area communities.”