Before moving to Boone in the 2000s, Jason English was vacationing in Boone and saw an opportunity.
“I saw great shops and coffee shops and bars and I started asking people about a sense of spirituality, and I noticed there are a lot of people that felt connected to God but feel disconnected to church families,” English said in a video. “It broke my heart, and I felt a really deep sense of calling and missional calling to downtown Boone, in particular.”
That calling will begin to manifest itself as English’s church, theHeart, is seeking to host a downtown gathering at the Appalachian Theatre in 2020.
“(We have the hope) of using that space starting in 2020 to engage the heart of the High Country,” English said. “We want to be involved in the heart of downtown. The plan is to rent App Theatre for some events to engage … We want to be a part of shaping the culture of Boone.”
An organizational meeting of theHeart members will be held at 6-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at the Appalachian Theatre as the church goes over what the plans are for downtown Boone in 2020.
theHeart is a Boone-based non-denominational church founded in 2001 that focuses on teaching the love of Jesus Christ. English joined theHeart in 2009 as a pastor, focusing on the visional and teaching aspects of the church.
English says that outreach into downtown Boone in 2020 and beyond has become more important in recent years due to the growth of downtown activity.
“What I noticed more and more in downtown Boone is that there are more and more people in downtown Boone than ever before, but there are actually less churches than there were 15-20 years ago,” English stated.
Currently, theHeart meets at Watauga High School at 9 and 11 a.m. on Sundays. The plan going forward is to keep those services at WHS while potentially adding a service in downtown.
“Quite simply, we want to establish a visible and active ministry of presence in Boone,” a Nov. 3 blog on theHeart’s website stated. “With a simple focus on reaching the displaced church, we see the benefits of adding one large gathering downtown. We’d like to launch spiritual formation groups focused on serving the downtown community. And we want to establish and strengthen our relationships with area businesses, organizations, churches and campus ministries.”
The Appalachian Theatre – reopened in October after more than a decade – came into play after English met John Cooper, chairman of the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country organization that manages the space.
“We’ve been in the process of talking to the Appalachian Theatre for about five years now,”English said. “At the beginning of the renovation process ... we committed to being one of the founding donors.”
“We would like to regularly host special events at App Theatre as often as possible,” the Nov. 3 blog stated. “We envision this new cultural jewel becoming a beacon for theHeart as we invite people into a loving relationship with God, Christ and ourselves.”
Meeting at Watauga High School and potentially the Appalachian Theatre is part of a calling theHeart feels is a part of their mission, comparing it to an Old Testament story of God telling the Israelite they would harvest fields they didn’t plant and live in houses they didn’t build in the promised land.
English calls the downtown project a building renovation, but not in a traditional sense.
“Instead of bricks and mortar, we are putting living stones — people who love God but feel disconnected to any church family — back in place,” the Nov. 3 blog stated.