SuCasa plans to engage more Southern students with new church building

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The Collegedale Spanish-American Seventh-day Adventist Church, commonly referred to as SuCasa and currently located on Colcord Drive on Southern Adventist University’s campus, is working on building larger and more advanced church facilities on College Drive East next to Collegedale Academy. 

On Oct. 11, SuCasa began construction with a groundbreaking ceremony, according to the SuCasa Church Project website. Construction Supervisor Danny Garcia said the new church is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.

According to the website, this building project has been going on for the past seven years. Martha Calderón, director of SuCasa’s College Student Ministries, said the church’s original idea was to expand its current building. Then, at the beginning of last year, Southern offered SuCasa the more spacious lot by Collegedale Academy. Their pastor informed his church members of the offer, and they voted to build a new church on the lot. 

This building project is certainly needed, according to regular SuCasa attendees and Southern students Anny Cordero and Melani Echavarria Castro. 

Junior nursing major Anny Cordero said before COVID-19, some people had to sit in the current church building’s basement on Sabbaths to watch worship services on a TV.

“Now, it’s even worse because they don’t have enough space to be six feet apart because of how many people attend on Saturday,” Cordero said. “SuCasa definitely needs a bigger building for them to grow and worship comfortably.”

According to senior nursing major Melani Echavarria Castro, more than 50 Southern students used to regularly attend SuCasa’s Sabbath worship services before COVID-19. Now, she believes around 25 students do so. Castro said the current sanctuary is cramped and some people cannot feel the air conditioning during services.

SuCasa’s Associate Pastor Alex Rey said before COVID-19, SuCasa held two Sabbath worship services, and between 250 and 350 people would physically attend. On June 27, SuCasa began holding one weekly church service and between 100 and 150 people attended. The church returned to holding two services on Saturday, Oct. 24, to better accommodate its vast number of attendees.

In a video posted on Feb. 18  on SuCasa’s church project website, Project Assistant Isidro Monteso said, “The design of the church is geared in a manner that future members could easily expand it when necessary. Since our church has been the mother church of multiple Hispanic churches in the area, it is also very important for us to have the ability to house a future church within our walls.”

According to Garcia, the new church building will seat 450 people. Additional planned facilities include a daycare center that will be open throughout the week, a fellowship hall seating 350 people, a soccer field that Collegedale Academy students may use and a recording studio. 

“The church is expanding mainly for all Southern students that may want to worship there,” Garcia said. “For Hispanic students, it is a second home away from home.” 

According to Senior Advisor for Diversity Stephanie Guster, there are 627 Hispanic undergraduate students enrolled at Southern this semester, 26.2% of the total undergraduate enrollment.

Garcia added that there will be a path cutting through the baseball fields behind the Hulsey Wellness Center leading to the new church, and SuCasa will have golf carts transporting students back and forth on Sabbath. 

The total construction cost is $6.8 million, according to the project’s website. Pastor Rey said he believes members have raised about $5.5 million. 

Castro said the church has held many fundraisers for the project. She added that the project leaders have kept church members informed and involved in making decisions for the new building’s design. Although Castro will not be at Southern when the new church is complete, she is excited for future members.

 “I think all coming generations will have the opportunity to do more activities and be more engaged in SuCasa,” Castro said.

Cordero, who has also been involved in fundraisers, said SuCasa became her second home on campus.

“I’m so excited about this new project,” Cordero said. “I can’t wait to see the new building and have more space to worship with my friends.”

Construction site for SuCasa. Photo courtesy of Stephen Ruf.

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