By Melissa Macker, Executive Director
If it weren’t for New City Church, downtown Macon would not look the same as it does today.
In case you haven’t heard the story of where The 567 got its name, it all started at 567 Cherry Street eight years ago. New City Church was a brand new church in the heart of downtown Macon. They were holding services at Cox Capitol Theater, and they needed a small space to use as the pastor’s office and for band practice during the week. They also wanted to serve their community. Downtown Macon looked a lot different eight years ago. It had a lot of artists—visual artists, musicians, spoken word artists—but it didn’t have a lot of venues for artists to showcase their work. So New City rented out the small store front at 567 Cherry Street, made it the pastor’s office, and invited artists to come and hang their work or have a concert. The name, The 567 Café, was born.
As the church grew, the dream also grew. Pastor Keith Watson envisioned an organization that could help new businesses get started as well as draw people to downtown Macon with all kinds of arts events. The church renovated 533 Cherry Street into a place that could both be a home for the church in the heart of downtown Macon, as well as contribute to the revitalization of downtown Macon through art, music, and business. In 2010, they formed The 567 Center for Renewal—a 501(c)(3) organization that could accomplish this mission while partnering with the church and sharing the space at 533 Cherry Street.
The dream was accomplished. Six years later, both the church and The 567 have grown tremendously and have been an important part of the transformation of downtown Macon. The church realized that both it and The 567 could now better serve Macon by having their own spaces. The church and The 567 were both able to purchase their own buildings, and The 567 opened its doors at its new location on First Street last week. The church’s move to Riverside Drive (still downtown) won’t be too far behind.
As we look towards the future, I wanted to recognize New City Church for what they have given to downtown Macon. Not many churches would have regularly shared their worship space with rock concerts, as they did for many years, which required extra clean-up on Sunday mornings. Not many churches would have poured their money into building an art gallery and supported a fledgling arts & business non-profit. Not many churches would have given up the pastor’s time to answer questions about rental space or give business incubator tours day in and day out. Not many churches would have sacrificed their own meeting space so there could be art classes 2 or 3 nights a week. That only touches the surface of what New City Church, and especially Pastor Keith, have given to The 567 over the past 6 years. There are many church members who volunteered hours upon hours to make The 567 and its events a reality, and the financial support that the church has provided is immeasurable.
So, thank you, New City Church for loving downtown Macon, for believing that God is willing and able transform this community, and for doing the hard work of launching The 567 Center for Renewal.