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NORTHFIELD CENTER -- A group of about two dozen families who now attend the Guru Gobind Singh Sikh Society Gurdwara in Bedford is expected to purchase the Epiphany Lutheran Church building at the corner of Valley View Road and Route 8.
The Lutheran congregation, which had put the building up for sale after struggling to pay its mortgage, met Feb. 26 and voted to approve the Sikh offer of $1.266 million for the building, according to the church newsletter.
The final tally was 29 members in favor of accepting the offer, with five voting against, the newsletter states. Under the terms of the offer, the Epiphany congregation could rent the facility until next January for $500 per month, but then would need to relocate.
The congregation is proposing current tenants who rent the facility, including the Nordonia Hills Senior Center, be allowed to remain for six months after the sale closes. Other tenants also include a Zumba group, Alcoholics Anonymous groups and a Bible Believers Baptist group. The Bible Believers group had sold its Route 82 church in Macedonia to an ethnic Indian group in 2014 -- the St. Gregorious Malankara Orthodox Church of Cleveland.
The congregation's proposals should not be a problem in finalizing the sale, Sikh outreach director Azaadjeet Singh told the News Leader March 3.
"The location is good, and it's a growing area, near Macedonia," Singh said. "We are all on the same page, we all agreed ... everybody is so excited."
Singh said the core group of about two dozen families are planning to move to the church.
"This is more of a youngish crowd ... like the second generation. They have an American perspective. This is our home -- this is our motherland. My daughter -- her first language is English. We're looking down the road, 20 to 25 years, and we like the fact that there is a senior center there."
Epiphany Lutheran Trustee Bill Lupica told the News Leader March 4 said there are about 100 members of the congregation, but those numbers have been dwindling.
Lupica said initially he "wasn't too thrilled" about the idea of selling to a non-Christian group.
"Everybody is losing people -- I think it is many Christian churches that are suffering. I know the Sikh people have a lot of people in their congregation. But as long as they worship God, or their God ... they're just a group of people who worship like everyone else," he said.
Singh said the Sikh congregation purchased the Bedford Gurdwara in 1992.
"It has become a bit too small and the population has expanded so much in the past 10 years ... the community is growing just phenominally," he said.
This would be the fifth Gurdwara in Northeast Ohio, with the others being in Bedford, Cleveland and Richfield. Singh says there are about 10,000 Sikhs in Northeast Ohio.
Singh said not all Sikh congregations list their locations online, as there have been attacks on Sikhs, who some mistake for Arabs.
He said the word Gurdwara means "Gateway to God."
"That means anybody and everybody is allowed, all you have to do is respect the protocols -- you don't even have to be a Sikh," he said, explaining protocols include removing one's shoes and covering one's head when inside the building.
According to the Bedford Gurdwara website, Sikhism is a monotheistic faith founded more than 500 years ago in India. It has roughly 27 million followers worldwide, making it the fifth-largest religion. Observant Sikhs do not cut their hair; male followers often cover their heads with turbans --- which are considered sacred --- and refrain from shaving their beards. There are roughly 1 million Sikhs in the U.S., according to estimates. The majority worldwide live in Punjab a northwestern state of India.
Epiphany Lutheran Church was founded in 1956 as an outreach ministry in the Nordonia Hills area.
The Rev. Christian Just, the church pastor, previously told the News Leader that the mortgage holder put the building up for sale in November 2016. He did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.
The mortgage holder, the Missouri-based Lutheran Church Extension Fund, "assigned the job of selling to a local Howard Hanna" Realtor, according to the December church bulletin.
The church is at 10503 Valley View Road in Northfield Center on a triangular shaped, 6.7-acre lot with frontage on Route 8 and Valley View Road. According to Summit County Fiscal Office records, the lot is worth around $460,000 and the 35,000-square-foot building (built in 1960) is appraised at just over $1.35 million for a total value of over $1.8 million.
The senior center is open on Wednesdays. The cost is split three ways between Northfield Center Township, Sagamore Hills Township and Northfield Village.
"We've been in financial trouble since Summa left us in about 2009," Just previously said, referring to room in the church the congregation had leased to the health care provider for an adult daycare facility.
"We were wallowing for a while. Then a child daycare center moved in, but they fell behind financially, so we had to close that off. Then the mortgage holder said we had to put the building up for sale."
Eric Marotta: 330-541-9433